When I was a kid growing up, I thought my next-door neighbor was the classiest person alive.
She had that Princess Diana vibe going on and I aspired to one day be just like her.
Of course, back then I couldn’t put my finger on why I admired her so much.
As I got older I realized that who she was to her very core embodied sheer class.
Because how classy you are certainly isn’t about your status in society, how much money you have, or how you dress.
It’s about the traits you have and strive to cultivate.
What makes a classy person?
Let’s find out!
1. Well-mannered and polite
Think of any classy person and I suspect you imagine them to be politely spoken.
Classy people mind their p’s and q’s.
They remember to say please and thank you.
Not only because it’s polite, but because they know that being well-mannered is the best way to show respect and gratitude to those around them.
Sadly, a survey back in 2015 found that 75% of people think Americans are becoming ruder and less civilized.
Which is perhaps why good manners stand out so much in a crowd.
As well as a courtesy to others, being polite is also self-serving, and can be significant to your success.
Research noted that a whopping 85% of people say that being courteous to coworkers has an impact on a person’s career prospects.
Often when we can’t quite put our finger on what makes someone so alluring — it’s confidence.
That’s the secret sauce.
We pick up on that inner confidence that tells us when someone is comfortable in their own skin.
Classy people come off as self-assured.
That’s very different from arrogant or cocky. Which ironically, ends up giving the opposite impression and highlights insecurity.
Confidence helps us all to feel ready for the challenges that life throws at us.
Rather than back away, we can then rise to that challenge.
In part, this explains why a classy person is able to stay so calm, regardless of the situation.
They can rely on that inner strength when they need it most.
“Keep calm and carry on” is a popular slogan to this day.
But it first originated in the United Kingdom during the second world war.
Intended to raise morale, it has become a symbol of the famed British ‘stiff upper lip’.
Regardless of what else is happening, keep your cool and keep on going.
In many ways, this is the exact attitude adopted by classy people.
It’s not that they live a charmed life and are immune to struggles. They have bad things happen, just like the rest of us.
But instead of losing it, they remain composed in the face of adversity.
That extends to life’s little niggles just as much as it does the bigger strifes.
When dealing with inconveniences and setbacks they can keep things in perspective and remain calm.
When faced with difficult people, they know how to stay grounded rather than fly off the handle.
It’s easy to get triggered when things aren’t going the way we want.
But classy people utilize this next trait on our list in order to cultivate composure.
4. Emotionally intelligent
As defined by Verywell Mind:
“Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, and use emotions to communicate with and relate to others effectively and constructively. This ability to express and control emotions is essential, but so is the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others.”
In everyday life that means emotionally intelligent people understand their own emotions. And that helps them to better control them.
It also helps them to have greater empathy for the feelings of other people.
When we can do this, we create far stronger connections with others.
Classy people are able to read others well, and that helps them to respond and anticipate their needs.
I mentioned in the intro my incredibly classy childhood neighbor.
One time in particular I remember coming home from school. I had a test that day which I’d been really nervous about.
When I returned to the steps leading up to my house I saw a small little cardboard box, with a note attached written to me.
In it was a cupcake. The message from my neighbor read:
“Hope you aced the test. I thought you might need this after a long day.”
She was right, I really did.
Not only had she remembered my mom telling her about my pre-test nerves, but she also went out of her way to show her support.
These are exactly the type of considerate gestures common with classy people.
They are mindful of others. They are thoughtful of the feelings of people around them.
We never think of classy people as being slapdash.
Instead, they believe if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
Classy people have standards that extend to every area of their life.
And that includes their work, responsibilities, and sense of duty.
In the words of the Queen of class herself, 1950’s Hollywood Screen Siren Grace Kelly (who later went on to become the Princess of Monaco):
“Everything has to be earned through work, persistence, and honesty.”
That’s why classy people are diligent, industrious, and persevering in their efforts.
Seen as I just mentioned Grace Kelly, now is probably a good time to bring up this very important trait that goes hand in hand with class:
When we think of the classiest celebrities, it’s no surprise that many come from the golden age of Hollywood.
I think a lot of that has to do with elegance.
The likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, and so many more, ooze sophistication.
It’s a combination of the tasteful way they dress, combined with how they carry themselves.
Elegance and class can be seen in both what you wear and your body language.
Classy people keep their heads held high, their shoulders pressed back, and smile warmly.
They have their own style, rather than feel compelled to follow the crowd.
It’s as if their whole demeanor is confident and classy.
“Why change? Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it.” – Audrey Hepburn.
Don’t get me wrong, when I say reserved I don’t necessarily mean quiet or timid.
It’s not that classy people can’t or don’t let their voices be heard.
It’s just that they tend to hold back a little bit.
They have the wisdom to get to know people first before revealing every little detail.
For this reason, they don’t create drama. Neither are they attracted to it.
Quite frankly, they see it as rather tasteless.
The reserved nature of a classy person doesn’t present itself in an unfriendly way.
It’s simply that they have layers. And they wait until it is appropriate to reveal those multifaceted deeper parts.
This can also be what gives classy people their allure and air of mystery.
Because you must wait to see what is below the surface. They do not tell you everything on your first meeting.
They sit back, taking all the information in before deciding upon the best way to proceed.
9. Friendly and warm
As I’ve just said, reserved certainly doesn’t mean cold.
In fact, classy is never frosty. Quite the opposite.
Classy people are warm-hearted, encouraging, and friendly to those they meet.
They know that doing so is the best way to show kindness and compassion.
When they approach someone in this way, it also helps to build trust and respect.
Even when faced with difficult people, classy people realize that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
So staying as friendly as possible is the best way to ensure as much co-operation as possible.
We’ve already talked about the importance of good manners.
And that’s clearly one way that we show respect.
But it goes deeper than that.
At its heart, respect is about showing others that you accept them.
We all want to feel heard and seen.
Feeling dismissed and disregarded can be incredibly painful and demoralizing.
Showing respect isn’t just about treating certain people well and with dignity. It’s about treating everyone with this same courtesy.
Being respectful means accepting someone, no matter who they are. Even when they are different from you, or when you don’t agree with them.
If that sounds challenging, it’s because it is.
Our egos have a habit of wanting to feel superior.
That means we can subconsciously try to lower others’ status to try to inflate our own.
Being respectful in certain instances takes a lot of work and a great deal of patience.
Another incredibly classy woman in my life when I was growing up seemed to have this next trait in spades.
And that was my grandmother.
Looking back, I don’t know where she found the patience within her to lovingly sit for hours watching countless dance recitals and improvised performances I enthusiastically wanted to share with her.
She would smile sweetly and offer words of encouragement. Never failing to give me all of her attention.
Despite the reality that I’m sure most other people would be bored to tears.
I can’t remember a time when her patience ran out.
Not when I needed something explaining for the millionth time.
Not when I messed up and made mistakes.
Not even when my rebellious teenage streak caused me to act like a Brat.
Classy people seem to avoid getting instantly annoyed or anxious. They have cultivated the patience to accept life as it is.
And this seems to bring them peace that they can then share with others.
Perhaps one of the reasons classy people manage to stay so composed and patient is because they are flexible.
They do not rigidly hold onto only one way that things can and should be done.
They can roll with changes and accept them.
This helps them to avoid being overwhelmed and frustrated.
Think about it:
The last time you felt really disappointed, was there an element of expectation there?
I suspect there was.
Perhaps you had the idea that one thing would happen, and so when it didn’t, you naturally felt disappointed.
The truth is that the more we hold on to rigid ideas of right and wrong, should and should not, bad and good — the more suffering we’ll create for ourselves.
When we learn to flow with life, it’s far easier to adapt.
Another thing that helps a classy person stay flexible is having an open mind.
Ignorance is far from classy.
That’s why people with taste and decency are not judgemental.
They aren’t quick to jump to conclusions about the people or the situations around them.
This is what gives classy people their level-headed image.
We think of them as being fair, just, and honest.
It is any wonder then that classy people are considered incredibly trustworthy.
Classy people are true to their word.
They say what they mean, and mean what they say.
That makes them someone you feel like you can truly rely on.
They value honesty (although always delivered tactfully).
So you feel as though you know where you stand with them.
Good moral fiber is an essential trait when it comes to showing class.
With such a fine list of traits that classy people boast, you might expect it to go to their heads.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
There is nothing boastful or bragging about class.
Classy people find it crass to show off.
They aren’t vain or conceited about their achievements and accomplishments in life.
They don’t lord what they have over others.
Instead, they take a modest and unassuming approach.
They know that whatever they have in life is only really on loan. Everything returns to the earth eventually.
They recognize that they are fundamentally no better or worse than anyone else on this planet.
This helps them to show humility.
To conclude: Being classy in your own way
The truth is that there isn’t just one way to be classy.
The long list of classy traits we’ve just encountered proves that there are many ways to reflect class.
All of which shine from the inside out.
The fundamentals of class always include the same combinations of traits like kindness, decency, and respect.
But the outer packaging can come in many shapes and forms.
Classy is an attitude that you embody and then extend to everyone you meet.