Saying “Hi” is a lost art. Seriously, these days it’s very rare.
An easy and often used scapegoat is technology, most namely the cellphone because a good proportion of people (read: almost everyone) you pass will have their neck craned downward staring, or pretending to stare, at a screen. Even if they’re not actively on a call, they may glance down quickly to avoid eye contact when passing someone. Many people are more comfortable this way: avoiding any conversation or potentially awkward situations. Of course, sometimes I walk with my phone or with my headphones in, but whenever possible I try to politely acknowledge everyone I pass, even if the start and end of the conversation are just 2 letters long.
Here’s one example that highlights my larger point. I was recently in Florida for a business conference where I’d be giving a keynote on “Millennial Innovations”. Now, the structure of this conference with hundreds of people in attendance is run as a series of concurrent sessions, which means that there are ballrooms and conference rooms with different topics being discussed at the same times. So as an attendee, you have a choice of which lecture or talk to attend. Being that this was my first time speaking at this conference, I decided to arrive about 15 minutes early, not only just to setup but also because I thought it may be a good idea to step outside and greet people. After setting up my presentation, I stood near the entrance to my room and politely greeted everyone who was entering. Aside from acknowledging the people coming into my talk, I said “hi” to anyone walking down the session hall.
I noticed one person walking down the hallway, looking at the session titles posted on the doors, and when he was reading mine I politely said “Hi” and remarked that ‘I heard the speaker of the Millennial talk was really good’ to which he responded and then quickly laughed after he saw my Speaker name-tag. This brief, barely 10 second exchange prompted him to enter my room and attend my talk.
Fastforward to the end of my keynote; when I got off stage he was one of the first in line and introduced himself as Keith. He made it a point to tell me how much he appreciated our interaction before my talk and in his own words said “it was a special moment that made me feel welcome”. As we talked a bit more I found out that Keith and his team were attending the conference from Jamaica, and he was actually unsure on which lecture session he was going to listen to during my time-slot until I said hello to him in the hallway. He said that polite greeting was a personal touch that no other speakers had done prior to their talks.
My talk centered around innovations in digital media so of course Keith and I had to get a selfie together (above). After the conference we’ve kept in touch via email and Keith has even been gracious enough to introduce me to other business conference organizers that may lead to some awesome international opportunities. Now of course the moral of this story is not to imply that you should say hi to everyone in the hope that it will benefit you later on, but rather I believe this story highlights a larger example: the profound effect that a “Hi”, one of the simplest, easiest, and most HUMAN interactions, can have on fostering real connections and spreading positivity.