How to Truly Exude Class: Part One

by Bailey Powell

Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly backstage at the 1956 Oscars

How do you define class?  To some people, class may be defined by money, following social niceties, fitting seamlessly into status quo, or by simply being well-heeled.  Others may associate the word with dignity, respect and the ability to command the attention of a room.

Most women probably have an image of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly or an influential female family member pop into their head when they think of the word “classy”.  No matter what your definition of the word may be the exciting news is that you don’t have to star in films, be a princess or be born in a certain decade to be an admirable, upstanding woman who is an inspiration to those around you.

In today’s world, living like the aforementioned women may seem like an outdated, unrealistic aspiration.  Au contraire!  Admittedly, being a true class act in the present day has slightly different rules due to technological advances and things of the like.  Although minor details may be tweaked, the framework of being a classy woman is steadfast.

the classy Catherine Middleton and her prince


Why is maintaining class important? Being classy is essentially putting your best foot forward.  It is being beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside. Now that I’ve gotten those trite-but-true sayings out of the way- being classy is important because it is how you present yourself to the world each day.  Having a positive attitude, reserving judgment and showing your best self every day (the bare bones of classiness) can achieve you many things.  Who knows?  Maybe an impromptu networking opportunity, getting to line jump at a jam-packed show, a new best friend, a hotel room upgrade, or even a promotion at your job. I can almost guarantee that being a classy woman will never merit you a negative response, so what’ve you got to lose?  Et voilà- maintaining class is important.

There is a formula to create and maintain class.  Oh, yes.  I know it might seem bizarre that there are steps you can take to achieve this quality, but I am happy to report that after instating the following into your life you will be well on your way to being a more delightful, more successful and more fun-to-be-around version of you!  (Not that you aren’t wonderful, already!)

Since outer beauty is worthless if you’re a nasty person on the inside, Part One will address the inner aspects of being classy.  Part Two covers all things external- the icing on the cake after you master Part One!

 1.           Age-old sayings that ring true

Melanie Hamilton: the epitome of class

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Okay, I know this is an obvious one but don’t overlook it because of its familiarity- it’s very important.  Before I went into junior high I remember my mother sitting me down and warning me that the next two years of life in girl-world were going to be especially difficult.  The insecurity and social awkwardness that so delightfully accompany the pains of puberty seem to drive girls into a catty, backstabbing and unnecessarily dramatic frenzy. High school and college brought more of the same and according to my 50-something mother a lot of these catty young women never change.  Eventually exhausted by the antics of mean girls, I realized the only thing I can do is be a part of the solution. Around my senior year of high school I started to live by these words:

“Don’t talk about others in a way that you would not like to be talked about.”

If you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying what you’re about to say in front of the person you’re talking about, don’t say it.  If someone else was saying the same thing about you in your absence and you know you would be upset by it, don’t say it. It’s sounds almost too simple, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately it’s not so easy. Whether you’re eight or you’re 80, it is all the same- it feels good to have something to say about someone else.  You feel included, important and get a temporary high.  It’s easy to fall into and it is a dangerous, slippery slope. When you take a step back and really look at the situation, it makes the person you talked about feel bad and probably leaves you feeling even worse.  No one wins and classiness is lost.

Mmhmm I heard dat.

A lot of exuding class is growing out of and rising above immature, catty behavior. Kind=classy.  It is important to know that classy does not equal perfect.  Everyone messes up, everyone’s dished the dirt and everyone’s hurt another person.  What classy does equal though, is being able to humble yourself and give the person or people you hurt a sincere apology.  Just remember to ask yourself “Would I mind if someone said this about me?” before you speak.  Before you know it, saying kind things and being open-minded will be second nature.  An even better high than having juicy gossip is not having dirt on your hands. This not only avoids hurting other people’s feelings- after a while other people won’t have as many negative things to say about you.  Everyone is happier, and you are well on your way to being the class act you want to be known as.  Remember: kind=classy.

2.            Eliminate third party venting 

Did you hear?


When you’re upset about something, it’s easy to discuss it with uninvolved people.  More times than not venting to a party unrelated to the situation violates the first step of being classy.  Before you lash out irrationally, remind yourself that we are all human and that everyone messes up (including the person you’re mad at and yourself).  Take some time to cool down and collect your thoughts.  When you’re ready, confront the person you’re unhappy with and calmly explain what it was that made you upset. If you have kept the issue to yourself and discuss it with the other person involved in a mature manner, the problem will more than likely dissipate quickly and civilly.

From all the different organizations I was in in college I learned a really useful approach to problem solving.  How you phrase something can determine whether or not the conversation you’re having will turn into a yelling match or a peace treaty.  Avoid negative words like “not” and “don’t” and utilize this simple phrase: 

“It really hurt my feelings when you _________ because it made me feel ________.” 

That way there is no accusation, which is often an inciter of anger.  Once again, this thought process seems obvious and simple.  Although it can be challenging to implement at first (especially if you’re the catty confrontation queen) it will eventually have astronomically positive effects on your mood and your relationships with people.  Eliminating third party venting + a calm confrontation=classy.

3.            Only say things you mean

What comes out of your mouth is very powerful and ends up being definitive of you.  This is simultaneously scary and wonderful, but remember that you have ultimate control!  Step number three is meant to temper out step number one: Although you shouldn’t say anything at all if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say something insincerely nice just to have something to say.  No one likes a fake, phony “friend”.

Only saying things you mean can help you in a variety of situations.  If you’re not one to hand out complements all the time (I’m not saying to withhold the nice things you’re thinking!), receiving one from you will pull even more weight because people know you mean it.  The same thing goes with the calm confrontations in step two- the less you have to have them, the more impact they have.  You can make someone’s day by being sweet, but that sweetness is nothing if it’s not sincere.  Eventually people will pick up on your disingenuousness and you are back to square one.  Sincerity + genuineness=classy.

4.  No Bush, bible or bank accounts in mixed company

Jackie O

Unless you are in the company of your family or a close friend or two (and even those depend on your relationship dynamics), bringing politics, religion or money to the table is bad manners.  This does not mean you have to have boring, polite conversation.  It’s just that these three topics can cause bristling and discomfort for all, and are best left untouched.  I feel like this step does not require much explanation, so I’ll keep this one short.  Leaving politics, religion and money out of discussions with mixed company=classy.

5.  Bite your tongue

This is not to be confused with being passive aggressive. This is about:

Mmhmm I heard dat: the sequel

Step five is somewhat of a summation of the previous four steps.  In order to exude class it is imperative to think before you speak and to be thoughtful in general while conversing.  “Is this worth getting mad about?”  “Will what I have to say cause any negative repercussions?”  “Is this even my business?”  Asking yourself these questions will save you a lot of face and grief.  Being thoughtful before you decide you have something to say=classy.


Being classy is not getting sloppy drunk at a party, but it is also not judging the people that do.  Being classy is not to be confused with being snobby.  It is simply holding yourself to a higher standard- being your own accountability partner.  It is creating who you want to be by being conscious of even the smallest actions or conversations, knowing that those small things add up and ultimately define you. I’m not trying to get into some kumbaya hogwash, but if you emit positivity it will almost always come back to you in some shape or form.  By now you should understand the power of your words. The most wonderful thing about that is the control you essentially have over how others will perceive you.  Kindness and tactfulness in conversation are conscious efforts, and both contribute greatly to being classy.

Good Stuff:

I highly recommend The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  He really drives home what it means and how important it is to create positivity with your words.

One of my favorite organizations is the non-profit Kind Campaign.  The definition of the Kind Campaign is “A movement, based upon the powerful belief in kindness, that seeks to bring awareness and healing to the negative and lasting affects of abuse within the ‘Girl World’.”

Now that you possess the tools to be beautiful on the inside, stay tuned for How to Truly Exude Class: Part Two covering external classiness.

Now, get out there and be kind you classy lady, you!



Continue to Part Two.

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