For some time now, I’ve been disturbed by a growing trend that tended to allude me with no good understanding behind the ‘why’ of it. My upbringing has taught me to always acknowledge people before engaging in conversation, and especially when asking for something; that we should always, “speak” to the person first.
As I went about my day-to-day, I increasingly encountered people (and still do) whom would immediately ask, command or even demand (in so many words) for something to be done without even the smallest acknowledgment of hello, hey, how are you, what up – just some kind of address before declaring what they want or need. I could not for the life of me understand this, especially coming from people and leaders that I considered great relaters and communicators. I felt (and still do) that more often than not, it was stupidity at play on their part and just plain rude, not to mention an immediate turn off to whatever you had to say.
Why is this an issue? Because subconsciously it says that your need or want is more important than the person you’re addressing. It ignores their personhood and relegates them to objects (a thing that performs a function). It’s disregarding the explicit fact that you’re communicating with a human being that has real thoughts and feelings. It’s simply an issue of respect and etiquette at the very least, and at the most and deepest, an issue of subconsciously communicating that person’s value. I know you’re thinking, “wow, all of this because I didn’t say hello?” But it matters. I’ve also noticed that it tends to happen with people who are perceived as less authoritative or prestigious, in the eyes of the beholder, because typically you wouldn’t approach someone of a perceived higher authority, respect and stature, and not acknowledge or greet them. Sometimes it’s a matter of being more or less formal with those that you’re comfortable with. I’ve personally experienced this by those closest to me just as well as by people that I didn’t know so well. In trying to make sense of all of this, there seems to be varying reasons that can be situation specific.
For the record, I’m not advocating starting every conversation off with “hey, how was your day and what’s going on in your life?” That’s just not practical, especially when you’re on the go or have focused oriented tasks at hand. Although it is important to make time to engage and connect with the people around us beyond just a quick hello, it’s acceptable to be brief when the situation dictates it. We’re all busy, that’s understandable.
After much contemplation (and prayer) about this pet peeve, I’ve identified 4 possible causes:
.: 1 : Technology has made us so hyperconnected that it’s not only changed the way we communicate but also the principles in which we communicate under. The veil of the device also makes our interaction less personable and thus a little easier to bypass traditional boundaries of etiquette. For some, it may seem as an ongoing conversation that just never ended. This makes it easy for you to approach someone without acknowledging them if you “feel like” you’ve both been in regular communication with each other—even if it was several days ago. While there is some truth to this, the problem is that not everyone views their conversations the same way. What you consider as “we just spoke” may mean “we haven’t spoke in a while” to someone else.
.: 2 : Maybe the relationship is considered to be so “close” or that you spend so much time together, that there isn’t a need to do the formalities of greeting someone like you would with everyone else. While there is some truth to this also, the inherent problem is that regardless of how much time you spend with them or how close you are to each other, it’s a subtle but important point to simply acknowledge the person before you approach asking of something.
.: 3 : Our drive to “get it done”, stay focused or feel important overrides everything else. Some feel the need to explicitly demonstrate it. And some are doing it without knowing it. The task at hand is what’s most important for them. While it’s commendable to stay focused, especially in school and business, you can’t go very far on your own without cultivating an acceptable level of interpersonal relationships that express more value than the task at hand. We’re all there to do something, that’s a fact. But we’re all people first.
.: 4 : We’re so wrapped up in ourselves and our own world that we overlook the basic etiquette of acknowledging the person.
I’ve noticed that these occurrences tend to happen a lot over digital mediums, i.e. texting, email and social media. Even email typically used to carry the greeting etiquette like that of a written letter, but as it’s become much more easily accessible and frequented, it tends to be much less formal. Typically, people don’t make phone call and just immediately begin telling or asking what they want. It’s almost ingrained in us to automatically begin the conversation with a greeting of hello or hey, something that simply acknowledges the other person. We typically don’t encounter this in person but does tend to happen more and more in our over-busy lives.
Why does all of this matter again?
Because people are our greatest resource and asset. Products and services don’t make themselves, people do. And if we really want to succeed in any endeavor, brand or product, cultivating great relationships through communicating value in every way possible should be our priority.
If this has happened to you, here are some suggestions to address it the right way:
- Be in their moment. Great leaders hone this very well. Address their need and then create the conversation. You want to be the person that people feel good being around and about talking to. You also get better reactions.
- Greet them anyway. Begin your response with a “hello, how are you” and then address their need. Some may snap out of it and apologize after hearing this, some may be annoyed, and some may dismiss it altogether as if you’ve said nothing. Be in their moment.
- Use the 24-hour rule. If you’re like me and get a little peeved when someone emails you out of the blue with no acknowledgment at all, immediately asking and demanding what they want to be done, firing back an angered response right away may not be the best thing. A good mentor once shared with me to wait 24 hours before responding in frustration or anger, so that you can count the costs.
- Be open. There will always be exceptions to what’s appropriate as relationships are unique to each person/culture and it’s hard to apply one rule of thinking to every relationship and scenario.
- Confront them. If you’ve made considerable efforts to address or ignore this frustration that you have with a person, then it’s time to “appropriately” acknowledge it before them. This looks like having a conversation that expresses your feelings in regards to their behavior towards you. You should be prepared to give specific examples, not being overly emotional, but able to express that them doing this is offensive to you and could further hinder your working/friend/familial relationship.
If you are the person doing this to other people, here are some things to consider:
- You are rude. Period. You’re not being passionate, or focused, you’re just being inconsiderate. Even if you do tend to just get wrapped up in what you’re doing, understand that how you address people communicates your value for them as people.
- Greet before you speak, it’s just that simple. “Hello”, “hey”, “how are you are” are some good choices. It can get a little awkward if you’ve just spoken to someone very recently, as in multiple times within a day, so use your best judgment.
- There are some people and relationships that just have an ongoing aura to them and that’s okay—to each it’s own. But don’t assume that the other person feels the same way.
- Don’t make someone feel like they’re just a help that does something for you—acknowledge the person, even for the quick on-the-go stuff.
This blog has been on simmer for some time as I’ve just wanted to reflect for understanding and approach. As a communicator, I wanted to address what I felt to be a real issue in today’s social landscape. What’s your take? Is the art of conversation and simple greetings waning? Does it even matter? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!