How to navigate awkward door etiquette

Zoë Jennings

Among student debt, failed relationships and bad professors, door etiquette might just be the biggest problem that students face on campus.  

Door etiquette is not always easy to determine. People typically hold the door as a sign of respect for others. Holding the door is also a way of minimizing the collective effort of opening a door.


To avoid an awkward door situation with all involved, you may consider following these guidelines.

Hold the door for someone that is carrying an awkward, large or heavy object.

Follow this to be a good person; you would want this done for you.

Don’t hold the door for someone who is so far away that they feel rushed to get to the door.

Holding the door for someone that is far away tends to result in an awkward situation for all involved. The person usually feels as though they need to rush to get to the door as soon as possible. This ends up making more work for the person. Some guidelines can help gauge when to hold the door for someone. If you can clearly see the facial expression of the person—distance-wise this is about 10-20 feet away—is a good indicator for holding the door.

Whoever gets to the door first holds it.

It is common sense for the first person to the door to hold it. Consider breaking this rule to hold the door for elderly people, physically disabled people or people with small children. Always ask if it is okay since they may not necessarily want your help. When holding the door it is optimal to pull the door towards you and stand behind it to give plenty of room for them.

People coming out of a door should go out before a person comes in.

To avoid a collision it is safe to assume that people inside the building have the right away for coming out the door. The person coming out of the building may consider holding the door for the person coming in.

Always say thank you and make eye contact when someone holds the door.


Nothing feels worse than putting yourself out there and holding the door for someone and receiving no appreciation, so respect that and say thank you. Eye contact is never a bad idea when saying thank you because it adds sincerity.

If you get caught holding the door for a large group hand off the door to a person in the group with a polite warning.

Occasionally the door-holder is inconvenienced by a large group of people coming in through a door and must escape the awkward situation. It can be tricky, but simple eye contact and a verbal warning will help you hand off the door to a member of the group. Some phrases that could be used are: “here you go,” or “all yours champ.”

Collegian Reporter Zoe Jennings can be reached at