Start Your Daily Contacts With Great Greetings -- Smash the Boring Clichés and Make Better Connections
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
"Hi. How're ya." "Good morning." "Horrible weather we're having." (Zzzzzzzz...) Tired of giving and receiving the same old greetings? Face to face. On the phone. In writing. Polite greetings are necessary rituals for offering the sense of respect everyone wants to receive in contacts with others. But you can be polite, respectful and interesting at the same time. You don't have a lot of time in today's workplaces and social environments to catch people's interest and attention, so starting with how you greet them can help.
People are anxious to connect with others and want to do business with or work with interesting people who attract connection. That has been true for millennia. In today's societies it is quite obvious. Just think of the vast numbers of folks everywhere not merely connecting face-to-face but also talking on phones and cell phones, Skyping, texting, tweeting, emailing and posting to social network sites. Constantly.
Make your contacts warmer and more interesting with some of the suggestions below. But, make sure that what you say is appropriate for the person to whom you say it. (Read the warnings and cautions at the end of the article.) The suggestions are written with face-to-face in the workplace in mind, but should be clearly adaptable for the telephone and written media.
1. Know something about the person you are greeting and personalize it. "Good morning! Did Suzy get that book report in on time?"
2. Say something different about the weather: "Did you know it's 120º in the Sahara desert today?"
3. With digital camera in hand: "Smile. I want your face(s) for my computer wallpaper today." (Only do this with someone or some group of people you already know!)
4. Share the mundane joys: "The Muddy Ducks won their little league game last night!"
5. Share a factoid: "Today is W.C. Fields' birthday!"
6. Quote something upbeat: "Washington Irving said 'A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.' "
7. Say or quote something funny: "All the men in my family were bearded, and most of the women." -- W.C. Fields
8. Report news, with commentary: "Did you see the article in the Journal about someone actually making a silk purse out of a sow's ear? I knew the old clichés were going to be proved useful someday."
9. Show and tell: "Look! I finally got tickets to that new play."
10. Notice and comment: "Did you get a new hairstyle. It looks fabulous."
11. Bring a small, inexpensive gift that nevertheless has some value in its meaning or is fun. E.G. a reproduction of an old funny postcard. A balloon or two. Doughnuts. Breakfast burritos. A sheet of funny stickers. You don't have to do it for the whole office at once. Just randomly for one person or another. Or a small group that's having a meeting or other get-together.
12. As a question that makes a person think -- but make it a pleasant one. e.g. pose a riddle.
13. Elicit an opinion. "What do you think about the new tax proposal?"
14. Tell a joke that would be passed around. It doesn't have to be your own. It should be brief. Like an elephant joke, but not so silly.
15. Rework the old clichés into greetings that sound like blessings: I hope this rain is helping your lawn as much as it is mine" or "Isn't it great how much the rain has refreshed the air?" (Everyone may talk about the weather, but not everyone turns it into positive wishes or comments.)
16. When you greet someone, remember to use his (her) name. Using another's name is guaranteed to get his attention and usually elicits a warmer response. "Hi, John. Glad to see you're in today." It is geometrically higher on the attention and connection scale than any simple "Good morning."
Warnings and Cautions:
1. Of course, you understand that you don't use the same new greeting for each person you meet each day, just a selected few.
2. You don't need to have a new and unusual greeting everyday. Nor do you need to try a new and different greeting for each person you meet.
3. You need to use good judgement about such things as who responds to humor and who responds to personal interest in their kids.
4. Be careful about getting too personal. Or too casual with fairly formal people.
5. Also, use only positive, complimentary remarks. Negativity and criticism, even in jest, can get you in trouble. I know more than one person who made negative jokes or personal remarks and got themselves fired.
6. And be very, very careful about which of the above you adapt to use on the phone or writing: folks can't see you and know when you are just trying to be funny or entertaining.
Just to be sure you are behaving appropriately to your job and your position in your organization, it is best to maintain the traditional, polite forms with folks like superiors and customers/clients who you don't know very well or who are considerably older than you.
Not everyone will appreciate your stepping outside traditional formalities, but most people will respond very well. Experience will tell you the differences.
C.S. Clarke, Ph.D. is a psychologist and performance coach who originated the Superperformance® concept in human performance improvement and publishes the sites Superformance.com® (Human Performance and Achievement Resources) and EverydayDelight.com.™ Superperformance is a trademark.