“‘Say Hello’ was inspired by optimism.” Nancy Wilson
You would think that saying hello would be easy, but during the last year, I have found it interesting and not what I expected to experience.
Depending on the weather, I get out in nature a few times per week. As I walk around the local parks, I find myself saying hello to strangers, and to my surprise, I am often taken aback by their responses.
I have found that people fall into the following categories:
Friendly or NOT
I am friendly and polite, but I wonder if this was always the case. Then I realized that it certainly was not. I was friendly to those that I knew, but that was not the case with strangers.
Throughout my life, I have learned and adjusted my behaviors to my surroundings. Growing up in Los Angeles, I would have never waved or said hello to a passerby. I don’t know if that was because of the underlying fear of strangers or simply growing up distrusting all others.
So when did I become friendly?
Through the years, I moved to multiple cities. The journey began in Los Angeles, followed by Denver, Miami – Fort Lauderdale, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Port St. Lucie, Hartford, Daytona Beach, and my present home outside Farmington, CT.
When I moved to smaller cities, my behavior toward strangers changed. I specifically remember living in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, when a passerby waved to my husband and me for no other reason than to be friendly.
This experience began a different expectation of the communities where I chose to live. As time passed, I continued to walk around my neighborhood. I grew accustomed to waving and saying hello to strangers on the street.
The thing about this behavior is that it has become an essential part of my personality. I enjoy being friendly, saying hello, and reaching out to friends and family, the butcher at the store, or my mail lady.
After moving to my newest home in Connecticut, the walks began, and I found myself daring people to interact. I would do a combination of a wave, nod, smile, or simply say hello. What I was greeted with amazed me, and I have broken down my encounters into six categories.
I’ve learned that the optimal encounter is obviously with the Friendly Person. This person is perceived to be kind and caring even though this is based on no tangible evidence except the smile.
So when I walk through my local park as the recipient of that smile, I feel comfortable and look forward to those encounters.
There are two versions of this person. One gives off the vibe and would prefer to be ignored and left alone. As a social person, I must be reminded that this individual may be on another path.
They may visit the park for peace, to enjoy the scenery, or clear their head. They might also be shy or lack the confidence to engage with strangers.
While the other individual goes out of their way to avoid a friendly gesture and will move to the other side of the street as they see you approaching. This person will also prevent any eye contact.
Many of these encounters spawned a deeper conversation with my son, one I hadn’t considered. People tend to react differently depending on who says hello.
People are more receptive if it is a young child or a woman. However, the reactions can be completely different if the one saying hello is a male or a male of color. This fact is one that I want to be very aware of, as I don’t want to make anyone feel more uncomfortable than they already appear to be.
The #DogLover encounter is usually one of the safest because it isn’t about them. It’s about their dog.
They understand that the dog get’s all the attention, so it is ok to say hello, smile and even ask where they got the dog or if you can pet them.
This interaction results in everyone feeling comfortable. I have found myself smiling at a pet owner, and when they reacted nervous/unfriendly, all I had to say was, “What a beautiful dog,” and their reactions turned around. Again because it isn’t about them, they tend to be more receptive.
Through my many walks, I have encountered a version of this person. They will often engage in more conversation than I ever intended.
So for me, “Hello, just trying to be friendly here” is the vibe I’m going for and what makes me comfortable.
The #Letmebe category has two different personality types. One is the please leave me alone as I’m outside for my health. The person at the park engages in the available exercise equipment and loop options. So I respect their wish and will altogether leave them alone.
The other is the individual who is out for their 20-mile ride and can’t stop to talk; however, the friendly biker occasionally smiles, gives a small wave or nod, and, on a rare occasion, will say hello as they race by.
This person gives off the vibe of You disgust me. They are miserable in the park, at home, or at work. I’ve learned to give them a wide berth and let them contaminate the air around them, not me.
So what’s the protocol for Greetings?
My greetings range from a nod, smile, wave, or saying a simple hello. And if I am so moved, it could be a combination wave and hello. Through the years, I learned to read the oncoming person well. And depending on those first 5 seconds, I decide to nod, wave, say hello, or completely ignore them. Those 5 seconds set the stage for my feeling friendly or rejected.
I almost always say hello first and am surprised when someone else does. Acknowledging people is not only a friendly gesture but one that makes people feel comfortable and safe.
When I say hello to a fellow walker, and they make eye contact and keep walking without acknowledging me, I think how rude and unfriendly. But my Intent is never to cause someone to be uncomfortable. Well, ALMOST never.
There have been a few times that I got annoyed because of their rudeness. And on those occasions, I found myself thinking an explicative or sharing with my son that I would write a blog post titled “Look Up F***ER which always makes us laugh.
However, most of the days that I walk, I am always happy that I did. On a good day, I can walk by someone in the park and say hello, wave, or smile; it doesn’t matter if they respond. But when they reply, it restores my faith in humanity, and I know in my heart that saying HELLO is NOT a dirty word.