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Sometimes you’re out in public and someone walks through a door ahead of you and because they want to be nice, they hold the door open for you. So far so good..................... or is it?

You probably consider yourself a nice person and every time you stop and hold the door open somewhere for someone behind you you give yourself a little mental pat on the back, like “Hey, I’m not a total monster.” And probably the person behind you who you held the door for gives you a little smile and a nod and a “thanks!” and the whole thing just brightens your day, unlike your job and personal life and ongoing inner monologue of despair. It’s just a nice thing that’s easy to do and makes you feel good about yourself so why not do it. Right?

Perhaps a better question is: Is it “all about you?” Seems like you feel that it’s “all about you.” Let’s break it down. The whole point of holding the door is to do something nice for others. Right? That’s what you tell yourself. And yes, there are times when you are doing something nice for others when you hold the door open for them. Specifically, those times are: When you are holding the door open for someone who is a maximum of two seconds behind you.

If I’m right behind you, on your heels, just a couple steps away? Sure. Hold that door. Don’t let it swing into my face. I sure do appreciate it. BUT. If I’m like ten steps behind you? I beg you: Do not hold the damn door.

You know exactly what happens when you hold the door for someone too far behind you. You walk through the door, then you stick your arm out and hold that door open and gaze back at the person behind you with an exaggerated look of kindness and expectation. The person behind you—maybe ten, twelve, or even twenty steps back—had been minding their own business. They were fine. They weren’t thinking about you or that door a bit. But when they see you up there holding the door, they are obliged to stop walking at their normal pace and rush ahead in order to get to the door that you are holding, lest you be inconvenienced by having to hold the door open an absurdly long time, a fake grin plastered across your face, your arm burning from fatigue, as would surely happen if the person you selfishly chose to hold the door for continued walking at a normal pace to reach the door. You, with your unwanted and self-satisfying gesture, have obligated them to break into a run in order to reach the door in a reasonable amount of time. “Thanks,” they will surely still say to you. But they do not mean it. What they really mean, deep in their hearts, is “If you had not stopped and held this door I could have continued walking at my own preferred pace rather than being forced to rush forward to make it through the proffered opening before we both grew uncomfortable with the ridiculous amount of time you were standing there.”

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It’s not that hard to open the door myself honestly.