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One Weird Trick to Destroy a Man's Ego

"Hello, weakling!" Image: Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Just hold the door open for him.

That's right: a new study by researchers from Purdue University showed that rather than being courteous, you are actually doing harm to a man's self-esteem and self-confidence by holding the door open for him.

In this experiment, Purdue psychologists Megan McCarthy and Janice Kelley positioned a research associate so that when someone approached a double door to a building on campus, the associate either stepped ahead and opened the door for him or her, or fell in line and opened the door at the same time as the test subject. Then, inside the building, the test subject was approached by another researcher and asked to answer a short survey.

The survey asked whether the subject agreed with statements designed to measure self-esteem ("I feel that I'm a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others") and self-confidence ("I can usually achieve what I want if I work hard for it.")

The result is interesting: male, but not female, subjects reported lower levels of self-esteem and self-confidence when the door was held open for them.

The researchers noted that "behaviors as fleeting and seemingly innocuous as door holding can have unforeseen negative consequences." They speculated that the gesture, polite as it may be, unintentionally send the message to a man that he is "inferior or too dependent."

Read the rest over at Pacific Standard.

I wonder if these results would be replicated in other countries. Holding a door open doesn't have the same symbolism in all cultures, and neither do gender roles. I've heard that in Canada, everyone holds the door open for all the people that follow, and I can't imagine a man ever stepping through a door held by a woman in Saudi Arabia.
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Another interesting find from this study: women report better self-esteem and better mood than men. And they don't have to open as many doors. Life is so unfair!
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I don't know who these wimpy men are they surveyed. It's just common courtesy -- if someone gets to the door first, they should hold it for the next person. I work at a University, and there are lots of female students who take the stairs like I do, and they often hold the door for me when they're first to get to it. Who wouldn't do that? Somehow, my fragile male ego is intact.
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