It might be hard to define classy behavior, but I’m sure you know it when you see it.
Class isn’t something you either have or you don’t. It can be learned, grown, and cultivated.
One of the big components of class is compassion, which we can define as recognition of and concern for the suffering and misfortunes of others.
Compassion is also one of the cornerstones of most religions and spiritual movements across the world. For example, Buddhism teaches adherents to “have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering.”
But this doesn’t mean that compassion is as prevalent across the world as you might hope. So many people are quick to judge and condemn others for their actions without considering the root causes of their behavior.
Without caring for other human beings, you’re going to seem like a cold, heartless person.
Nothing classy about that!
People who display these six behaviors lack class and compassion without realizing it and could definitely learn to care more about others.
Bragging and showing off are two behaviors that I think we can all agree seriously lack class.
Yet people who have a lot and are well-to-do seem to do this all the time. That means that class has little to do with wealth and material success and everything to do with the way you hold yourself.
An authentic person is proud of themself and has no need to hide their successes. But they also don’t need to rub them in anyone else’s face, particularly people who have been far less successful in life than themselves.
I used to work as a volunteer teacher at a very poor country school in rural Thailand. One day, the entire school was called into the gym for an assembly.
The school had brought in a motivational speaker to talk to the entire student body. I sat in on the hour-long talk even though I didn’t understand much of anything the guy said.
He started off with some jokes and got the students laughing and participating. But eventually, the mood changed.
I asked my co-teacher what he was saying, and she told me he was talking all about his success. He told them how he’d built up a multi-million dollar company and now had a yacht, a fleet of sports cars, a few mansions – you know, the usual!
These were mostly kids who only had one pair of socks.
I noticed the students leaving the assembly looked anything but motivated and asked a few what they thought.
“Rich man show off” was the answer I got from nearly everyone.
Perhaps the speaker thought he was going to motivate the kids with his middle-class-to-riches story, but he lacked compassion for their economic situation and fell very far short of the mark.
2) Being rude
Have you ever seen someone bawl out at a waiter for bringing the wrong order or demand to talk to the manager when a cashier makes a mistake?
Have you ever watched that scene unfold and thought, “Classy”?
These are classic cases of people mixing up self-confidence with self-importance. Many people think that being assertive in these sorts of situations means being aggressive and intolerant.
Well, if you want people to think you’ve got class and compassion for others, this is not the way to do it.
Being impolite, standoffish, overly critical, or downright rude to people is not assertive and definitely not classy. It’s selfish.
You see this all the time in interactions with people in the service industry.
So many people, when they don’t get the immaculate service they desire, puff themselves up and complain.
What they never consider is the feelings or the situations of the service people. That waiter might be new and trying his best to learn the job. He didn’t screw up intentionally.
The cashier may be challenged by a brand new point-of-service terminal that they have had enough training on. They’re certainly not out to ruin your day!
Yes, sometimes people give lousy service because they don’t care or even out of spite.
But the vast majority don’t, and they deserve compassion, not rudeness.
3) Being crude
Crude oil is too thick, dirty, and impure to put into any gas tank.
In much the same way, crude, callous, and offensive behavior is too much for most people to handle.
When I say crude here, I’m talking about swearing and using offensive language and talking about base subjects like sex and bodily waste.
I don’t want you to misunderstand me, though.
I’m not saying there isn’t a time and a place for literally anything. As the old saying goes, “I like a crude joke as much as the next guy…”
However, you really need to know your audience and think about time and place when it comes to this kind of behavior.
Letting out a ripping fart at the bar might be hilarious, but at a funeral, it’s not going to get the same kind of reception.
That’s where compassion comes into it.
All people carry around wounds that you can’t see, and a lot of them can be related to sex, violence, and verbal abuse. If you crudely bring up these subjects, you could be callously reminding them of their traumas without even realizing it.
Crude behavior usually lacks compassion, and for that reason, it’s anything but classy.
4) Preying on the weak
I used to know a very rich girl, Maria, who thought she was pretty darned classy – but she was the only one.
Everywhere she went, she was always surrounded by a group of people. But they weren’t her clique or circle of friends.
They were hangers-on, people who she attracted with her wealth and good looks and then proceeded to use and dispose of regularly.
Most of these people were nice, even too nice to realize that they were being used until it was too late. Others also clearly had low self-esteem and seemed to think they could give themselves a boost by associating with Maria because of her status.
I saw the same cycle repeating for years.
New people would glom onto Maria, and she’d proceed to publicly make fun of them, insult them, and make them feel small. The others in the group never dared to stand up for whoever was the target of her abuse that day.
They all just seemed happy it wasn’t them… until it was.
To me, her behavior indicated that she was insecure and had such low self-esteem that she needed to use or hurt others just to make herself feel superior.
And I don’t think anyone ever found this kind of preying on the weak and using people who were too nice to be classy.
5) Avoiding responsibility
There are different ways to avoid responsibility, and people who lack class and compassion will display all of them.
You can avoid responsibility by not owning up to your mistakes.
People do this by pretending not to know what went wrong, arguing and saying they weren’t to blame, or denying they were involved at all.
While none of this is what you’d call classy or admirable behavior, it’s not really all that unusual or surprising.
But there are worse ways to avoid responsibility.
Blaming others or simply allowing the blame to fall on someone else’s shoulders, knowing full well that they’re not at fault, is much, much worse.
Naturally, this is sneaky, deceptive behavior that nobody would ever respect if they were to find out.
But even worse than that, it’s so damaging to the people that they throw under the bus.
This can happen in social situations like blaming someone else for spilling the beans when you actually let the secret out.
But even worse than that, imagine getting fired from your job because you got blamed for doing something that someone else did!
Setting someone else up to take your fall shows a serious lack of compassion that absolutely no one is going to respect.
6) Not sharing
We all learned to share in kindergarten, didn’t we?
At least, we were told that we had to share toys by taking turns and that if we had a great treat, we’d better have enough to share with everyone.
Well, it’s clear that for some people, these lessons simply didn’t stick.
So many people seem to feel entitled to have more or better things than others regardless of whether they even earned their money or had it handed to them.
Entitlement is pretty much the opposite of compassion. While many people have great manners and perfect etiquette, their lack of compassion for their fellow human beings is going to keep them from being seen as classy.
People who display these six behaviors lack class and compassion without realizing it.
They might have wealth and looks. They might be well-spoken and debonair.
But without compassion, they simply don’t have class, and this is something that everyone will notice.
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