There is a good amount of disagreement over what the etiquette is for holding doors for people. This is obvious in reading the first few articles when you google “holding doors etiquette.”
I just want to throw my two cents in, because, in the past week or so, I’ve encountered a bunch of scenarios where the door holding etiquette was ambiguous and led to awkwardness. Each of the guidelines I will outline below stem from specific things that I’ve encountered.
The general policy to me is that, if you’re entering a door, and the person is far enough behind that when you let the door close, it would fully close, holding the door is optional. I would say this distance is about 15 feet or so. Anything within that distance, and you should highly consider holding the door, unless you are ahead of someone and you have to swipe an access card or input some code to gain access to a door. In this case, it is fully acceptable to not hold the door for the person behind you if you do not recognize them.
If there are multiple doors in succession, and you hold the door for someone, only one “thank you” from the recipient should be required. Many times, there are multiple doors in succession and it gets awkward to have someone keep saying “thank you” for just holding the door.
If someone holds a door for you, and there is a line in the establishment you are both entering, it is only right to allow that person ahead of you on the line.
If you have to, in any way, contort your body to hold a door for someone, just let it go. As human beings, everyone should be fully prepared to open their own door. Similarly, if someone does not hold a door for you, it is not the end of the world.
If you are holding a door for someone, please pay attention to that task and do not try to multi-task. For example, do not read a magazine and hold a door at the same time. If you insist upon multi-tasking while you hold a door, please allocate enough attention to the holding the door task so that the person behind you does not need to walk through you.
Here’s a really specific scenario. If the door swings toward the building, and you are exiting, do not feel obligated to hold the door. It will only cause the person behind you to bump into you.
So think about all of these. Absorb them. Let them become a part of your life.
As a fun game, try to think of the scenarios I found myself in to arrive at these guidelines. You’ll enjoy your day better if you do. I can assure you that nothing you come up with can be as awkward as what actually happened in every single case.