Standing in line at Starbucks, do you look at your text messages, read your email, or play a game while waiting to place your order? How about the ride on the elevator? Do you turn, face the door, and stare at the numbers as you wait for your destination, ignoring anyone else in the elevator?
What are you missing by not saying one simple word: “hello?”
While that question may be rhetorical, it can be quite literal. When you don’t greet someone in your day-to-day interactions, you miss out on a human connection. You miss out on the opportunity to learn something about someone. You miss out on an exchange in energy that occurs when two or more humans come together.
Being nice is good to the people you encounter and society, but most importantly, it is good for YOU. It doesn’t take any more effort than the hundreds of other routine things we do day-in, day-out, but it does make a big difference.
Here’s what being friendly gives you:
Confidence and optimism. Most of the time when you say hello, that greeting is returned. This little success promotes confidence within and teaches you that people don’t bite. It helps you feel good about yourself.
- Business and social success. People like friendly people. Saying hello to strangers is no-risk practice for being friendly at work and in social settings.
- Leadership. No matter what the size of your firm or company is, saying hello to the new guy or girl demonstrates your innate leadership skills and will make the recipient feel honored and welcome.
- Widen your circle of influence. According to Terry R. Bacon, author of Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead, “People who are highly skilled at being friendly and sociable with strangers and building close relationships are more than twice as influential as people who are less skilled at sociability and relationship building.”
- Fun. A chance encounter with a tourist from London can lead to an interesting conversation that will have you thinking all day. Will you ever see the person again? Probably not, but you can enjoy the encounter and allow it to make you happy all day.
- Good karma. By saying hello, good morning, and thank you, you are acknowledging another person, providing recognition. In many cultures, this is the equivalent of giving someone a blessing for the day.
For some people, stepping out of the box to say “hello” is difficult, even if you are tasked with client or customer interaction. Here are a few ways to learn to be friendly so that you can reap the rewards.
Be aware of your surroundings. It’s hard to say hello if you are consumed in your own thoughts, looking at the ground, texting, or not paying attention to anyone but yourself.
- Be aware of your body language, and smile. Making eye contact and smiling at someone can make all the difference in a successful encounter.
- Be authentic or transparent. If the opportunity to make a comment arises, do so. As the conversation progresses, naturally show your curiosity and interest in others. Your efforts will be returned.
What do you do if the stranger or recipient doesn’t return your greeting? Saying hello to strangers, even when they don’t respond, is still worth it. If people do not acknowledge your greeting, give them the benefit of the doubt. Be polite and forget about it. Don’t make a big deal; you really don’t know what’s going on with them and it’s probably something completely unrelated to your exchange.
When the moment is right, you’ll know it. Whether it’s during the arrival of the elevator, grabbing a cart at the grocery store, or waiting to order your latte, try it! Say hello to one new person each day for a month and make it a habit. See how it changes your life.