Greeting a person as they pass by is a fundamental human behavior, yet we hardly ever do it. We often let company or city cultures determine whether or not we will say “hello.” It seems strange; why not say “hi” every time to every person? I struggle with this much of the time, and only reliably greet another if we are close friends.
When I’m feeling shy or unsure of myself, I’ll offer a weak, non-committal, pitiful half-smile. My previous jobs were with smaller companies, so everyone knew everyone and we always would stop to talk, not just brush by without a “hello.” We were friends, not just coworkers. But company culture looks different for me now at this larger company.
When I do offer a greeting, I’m often struck by how it seems like I am always the one to initiate the conversation. After passing by the same coworker enough times, I feel the proper thing to do would be to acknowledge one another. I am more uncomfortable with the silence than with initiating a conversation, so I will go ahead and strike up a conversation.
Because of this, it is even more important to me to take the time to be friendly. Just because the company is bigger does not mean that its employees do not enjoy human interaction. I have a good sense of the pecking order here too, so if it ever comes down to it I want to be known as someone who is friendly and pleasant to be around.
My thoughts on this began when I realized that one of my coworkers, who once was gracious enough to drive me home when my car battery died, did not speak to me when we passed each other in the hall. After being so generous and friendly (and not having had an argument) I figured it was up to me to maintain this relationship. She had been so kind that day that I knew I wanted to be friends with her every day, not just when I needed something!
To communicate this, I have intentionally struck up conversations with her this week. Instead of walking in silence, I comment on her dress. For another silent coworker, I asked what she is planning to do this weekend. Otherwise, my go to is, “Hello, how are you?” These are small conversations that are very surface-level, but my hope is that I let them know that I am interested in them and their life.
I have a lot of room to grow in this area. I do have to try and, often, force myself to talk to people. It’s easy to have an attitude of “if they don’t want to talk to me then why should I bother?” I’m also not the person who waves to cars as they pass me by, but my two-year old kid does. He rides in a stroller so I have no idea where he would have learned this behavior, other than being innately friendly. I think he gets it from my mom, who will give a big “Hello!” to strangers in the parking lot. Such actions do not come easily to me, so I’m glad to have great role models :).
I hope this note encourages you to just go for it and say “hi” and smile at the next person to pass by you. Why not? It could be magical; or at the very least, a little social experiment ;).