Class is a funny thing.
That’s partly because the same word in the English language describes a group of people learning something together, a social group defined in part by how rich you are, and a difficult-to-define pattern of thoughtful behavior.
It’s that last definition I’m going to be talking about today.
You see, having class doesn’t mean having money. And it doesn’t mean dressing in the most expensive clothing, either.
What it means is treating others with a certain standard of behavior. It means carrying yourself in public in a way that respects the comfort of others.
And when someone lacks class, we all suffer for it.
Unfortunately, some people never bother to learn how to act with class and humility.
Here are some sure signs of someone whose lack of class and humility may well ruin your day.
1) They brag
One of the most obvious signs of someone who lacks class and humility is that they are always trying to tell you how great they are.
These are people who see life as a constant competition, and they are determined to win.
They want everyone to know how well-paid their job is, how many cars they have, or how big their house is.
And often, they confuse material success with actual achievement.
Psychology professor Joachim Kruger writes that this is the result of an empathy gap.
Basically, people who brag lack the empathy to understand that when they talk about how great they are, it doesn’t make the audience feel as good as it makes them feel themselves.
Often, bragging comes from a place of deep insecurity. People who brag have a deep need for other people to be impressed by them because they aren’t secure in themselves.
But inflicting yourself on other people like this is the opposite of classy, and about as far from humility as you can get.
2) They try to one-up you
A particularly annoying form of bragging is one-upping.
This is when you tell someone a story or a fact about yourself, and they compete with you to tell an even more interesting, funny, or outrageous story to prove that they have had a more interesting life than you.
Like bragging, this behavior comes from a deep insecurity and a competitive view of human relationships.
It also displays a complete lack of empathy on the part of the person doing it, since one-upping people tends to make them feel like you’re not even listening to what they are saying.
Ultimately, behaving with class is about putting other people at ease, which makes one-upmanship the opposite of classy behavior.
3) They talk only about themselves
Is there anything worse than a person won’t stop talking about themselves?
There’s nothing wrong with talking about yourself sometimes. After all, drawing from your own experience is a great way to connect with other people.
But there’s a big difference between telling stories from your past that are relevant to the conversation you are having and hijacking every conversation to bring it back to you.
There are lots of reasons why people do this, including:
- They have a need for attention and validation
- They are insecure and want other people to praise them
- They are scared of silence
- They are emotionally immature
- They lack social skills and empathy
- They are narcissists
But whatever the reason, there’s no denying that this is one of the most annoying conversational traits a person can have.
It’s also one of the least classy things you can do in a conversation.
4) They lack manners
Manners are a funny thing.
I’ve traveled enough to know that what is polite in one place is shockingly rude in another, and vice versa, so it’s hard to get around the idea that manners are more or less completely arbitrary.
At the same time, they are the rules for how we navigate society together without annoying each other too much.
For that reason alone, they are important.
Manners also change through time, so what is rude to one generation may not be to the next.
But while everyone can slip up and forget their manners from time to time, some people just don’t care.
I’m talking about people who chew with their mouths open, or who seem to have completely forgotten the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
I’m talking about people who skip the line and push their way to the front.
I’m talking about people who drop litter.
Whether you agree with them or not, manners are a sign of respect for other people.
And people who disregard them tend to lack both class and humility, since they don’t care about offending others.
5) They argue with everyone
Arguing is a normal part of human interaction. But if you have class and humility, you know to pick your battles.
Not everything is worth arguing over. In fact, usually only the most important things are worth getting into a fight about.
That doesn’t include politics, your taste in movies, or the local sports team.
People who lack class often find themselves arguing with others.
That’s because they either don’t realize or don’t care how uncomfortable it makes everyone around them when they loudly vocalize their opinions and even lose their temper around others.
People with class may have strong opinions. But they don’t feel a need to beat others over the head with them. For that reason, they will almost never argue with people, especially in public.
6) They shout
Some people just have voices that carry.
But if that’s you, you should recognize that and make conscious efforts to keep the volume down, at least in public.
You see, being louder than you need to be around others is another form of disrespect, and it shows people that you don’t care if you are annoying them.
Here’s a story to prove that class has nothing to do with money:
Recently, I took my first ever first-class flight. It was the kind with seats that turn into beds, the kind that gives you access to an exclusive lounge with free high-end meals and cocktails. It was great.
But as we lined up to be the first people onto the plane, a group of guys behind me were yelling at each other.
Not in anger. They were just being incredibly loud, yelling about how much they had traveled and how much they had seen of the world.
They may have been flying in first class, but it was clear they didn’t have any class at all.
7) They show off
There are more ways than just bragging to show off.
On that same first-class flight I just mentioned, one of the yelling men had a gold chain around his neck that was as thick as my thumb. The whole idea, I guess, was to show everyone how wealthy he was.
Here’s the thing: nobody cares.
Like bragging, showing off comes from deep insecurity. Whether a person needs to have the latest designer clothes or the flashiest car, it’s a sure sign of somebody who is looking to external sources for their self-worth.
It’s the opposite of class and humility.
8) They dismiss other people’s opinions
Not only do people who lack class love to argue. But it’s also pointless arguing with them, because they will never change their opinion.
Having class means accepting that you are not always right about everything. No matter how much you might think you know, there’s always something else to learn, and another person’s perspective can always teach you something.
But it takes humility to recognize that. And people who lack humility never will.
9) They confuse money with taste
The kind of class I’m talking about here has nothing to do with money. But for some people, money is all that matters.
Having class means developing your own taste. But if you can’t be bothered to do that, it’s easier just to throw money around and let other people tell you what’s good.
These are the people who spend a fortune on brand names, fancy cars that they don’t know how to drive, and luxurious holidays that they don’t enjoy.
10) They don’t control bodily functions
This is an obvious one. So it’s amazing how many people don’t seem to get it.
We all have bodily functions, but having class means not inflicting them on others. If you really need to belch or to break wind, excuse yourself and do it in the bathroom or somewhere private.
Little kids know this. But amazingly, adults without class haven’t got the memo.
You can’t buy class
Some of the classiest people I ever met grew up in absolute poverty, and some of the richest people I’ve encountered were some of the rudest.
Ultimately, class is about respect for other people. It means avoiding behaviors that will make them uncomfortable or annoyed.
In that sense, being classy is about having the humility to recognize that you are no better than anyone else.
And if someone doesn’t get that, they are probably someone best avoided.