Skip to main content

Greetings! A Simple Act of Respect

     Maybe you're not a morning person.  Maybe you're deep in thought about what's ahead and not attuned to your surroundings.  Maybe it wasn't something that was important to do around your house when you were growing up.  But greeting people when you first see them each day is a show of respect.  It says to an individual that you "see" them--meaning you acknowledge their presence, that they exist, and that they are important enough to address.

  
     This issue comes up regularly when I am conducting internal customer service and self-awareness training sessions.  For many, saying hello to a colleague first thing in the morning isn't a big thing.  But for others, it's everything.  Those who believe it matters are usually offended by the dismissive response they get from a coworker who walks through the office and passes their office or desk and never looks in their direction.  They are particularly irritated when they offer a greeting first and the other person doesn't respond.  They feel overlooked, minimized, neglected.  It's very much psychological.  It's about how we think others see us.  And if we think they see us as insignificant, we feel disrespected.  Especially if we have a high degree of respect for ourselves.
     For those who don't care whether they get a greeting or not, they think the other side is making much ado about nothing.  They weren't raised to walk into a room and say "good morning" or "good afternoon" so it doesn't mean as much to them.  They tell me that they aren't trying to be disrespectful and don't see the lack of the gesture as being rude.  It's not personal with them.  They will make the effort when it's brought to their attention, but in the grand scheme of their day, saying hello when they walk through the door isn't a priority.  Getting coffee is!
     In an office setting, however, the act of not "speaking" to a person when they are first encountered can damage professional relationships.  Coworkers want to feel that they matter.  To be disregarded in something as simple as a greeting indicates to the person being ignored that their existence is unimportant--so unimportant that they don't deserve the smallest of acknowledgements.  In the south where good manners determine how you were raised, the negligence of a greeting carries even greater weight and may even call into question the quality of your upbringing.
     When I've seen heated exchanges among team members at work about this topic, I've often found that the behavior is split down cultural and regional lines.  It's not just how a person was raised but also where they were raised that distinguishes the opposing views.  According to the participants, greetings are usually a behavior that starts from early rearing.  It becomes a requirement (or not) in the home, so by the time a person reaches adulthood, it is a common practice.  For those who don't follow this practice, they say it wasn't something emphasized in their home.  For those who do follow the practice, it is a hard habit to break.  Not that they want to.  They believe acknowledging others is polite, shows kindness, and warms up interactions as much as a smile does.
     As a matter of resolution, I usually advise those who don't regularly offer greetings (especially managers and supervisors) to weigh the importance of doing it versus not doing it.  It only takes two seconds or less--literally.  Good morning.  Good afternoon.  Hello.  A nod of the head and a smile.  If it matters to the other side but not to you, then what is it costing you?  Put the needs of your coworkers first.  Do what builds better relationships.  The antithesis, however, does bring a cost and it looks like this:  an undercurrent of resentment between managers and direct reports, a wedge between coworkers  because the greeting that could conjoin them doesn't exist, and a loss of respect for the offending party.  Remember, respect is earned, not always automatically given.  But automatically giving a greeting can certainly earn respect.  Try it.

Popular posts from this blog

Taming the Tongue

I was studying the Bible today because part of my life is spent as a Bible student and Sunday School teacher.  I enjoy reading it because of the many life lessons it holds.  Today's scripture has everything to do with communications.  And since this is a communications blog, I will refer to the verses I read in it just like I would in any book where I find something worth repeating.  In the book of James, chapter three, James is talking about talking--specifically cursing, lying, gossiping, boasting, and a bunch of other things we say that we shouldn't.  These behaviors are born out of one small part of our bodies that we all lose control of along with our brains at varying points in our lives.  But when we lose control, we amass large amounts of grief for ourselves and others.






     Beginning at verse three, he describes this failure of ours.  "When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. …

Words That Heal (Especially After That Big Loss Last Night)

If you stayed up late last night to experience the end of the big College National Championship game, you saw a nail biter and a fantastic finish.  For those of us who didn't have a team in the fight, it was pure entertainment.  But for the Georgia students who fought in that battle and lost, it was a bitter pill to swallow.  They likely woke up this morning feeling like they were having a hangover.        Any sports fanatic will tell you that a loss to the team is also a loss for them personally.  They feel similar (not necessarily the same) pain as the players even though they haven't stepped a foot out, in or on the field, court, track or pool.  It stings pretty badly.  Even though Alabama won this time, they know all too well what it feels like since they experienced the same defeat last year against Clemson.      So how do you get  past the pain?  What can you say to assuage those melancholy feelings that stick around for the next few days and even months?  These qu…

WARNING: Emotional Intelligence Not in Use

This past week we've heard revelations of some pretty harsh language being used in reference to people of other countries not being allowed into this country.  That language apparently came from the top leader of the most powerful country in the world.  Whether true or not is unclear.  Some in the meeting where it allegedly occurred say they heard the comments clearly.  Others say they don't recall hearing them.  Some refused to comment.  And the accused--the President of the United States--denies it.  Regardless, people were hurt when the claims were made.  People from those countries were distressed upon hearing them, some even brought to tears.  The rejection and denigration cut like a hacksaw.  Many from our own country were appalled and angry.      Recognizing how words impact others calls for the use of emotional intelligence.  This means being smart and intuitive about other people's feelings, especially in sensitive matters.  We do this by getting outside of …