It’s easy to be a gentleman when all is going well. It’s a sunny day, the woman on your arm is looking fine, there’s money in your wallet and your bank account as you stroll along the street, looking for a nice place to have lunch and perhaps a glass of wine. But when the money and the girl both leave, and a storm is brewing – that is the test.

A gentleman does not lose his cool under pressure – he remains calm and courteous, even more so, perhaps, when things are looking grim. When the waiter returns with your credit card, saying it has been declined, how do you respond? With anger? No – if your card has been maxed out, it’s not the waiter’s fault – and if you have surpassed your spending limit, it’s no one’s fault but your own. If the mistake is on the part of the credit card company, you don’t blow up – you deal with the situation in your usual, calm, workmanlike way and, for a real bonus, with a touch of humor.

The ability to deal with sudden and unexpected problems – a flat tire, a business issue, a date who doesn’t show up – with some humor and a realization that it isn’t the end of the world is a real skill, one that can be developed over time. It might help to think of people who have real problems – children in undeveloped countries without a enough to eat, handicapped people without arms or legs who bravely find a way to get by, political prisoners who won’t renounce their beliefs despite torture – in the context of the pain and suffering that exists for so many people, how bad is your problem of the moment? An unfortunate inconvenience? Yes. A disaster calling for immediate worldwide attention? No.

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