The lost art of friendly greetings

by Jack Sawyers

Life at Simpson College is often characterized by its small-townatmosphere.

Whether because of Simpson’s size (1,452 full-time students), orthe fact that a large part of Simpson’s students come from ruralareas, the feeling of community is often greater here than atIowa’s larger institutions.

This sense of community is something that becomes visible toanyone who pays attention throughout their day.

In fact, it’s happening right now.

I’m talking about the various ways Simpson students greet eachother as they pass in the hallways, at the gym or on one of themany sidewalks that segment campus. The possibilities are as variedas the people who use them.

There’s the classic nod of the head, usually characterized bywhat appears to be an agreeing downward tilting of the face as twopeople pass.

If you’ve got an armful of books, this one works well.

However, if the motivation is there, and the moment is right,you might want to try out a quick wave of the hand. Standard butuniversally understood, the wave has been a favored greeting forcenturies. If followed with a smile, a wave will almost always geta smile and wave in return.

Of course, if waving and nodding across campus while grinninglike a buffoon makes you feel a little overworked, you could alwaystry talking.

Yes, it’s true, a little breath and a few flicks of the tongueare all it takes to let someone know that they’re welcome.

This is probably the issue of greatest concern with Simpsonstudents when it comes to acknowledging someone else’s passing.

We’re just too quiet.

In fact, one of the most common scenarios I’ve seen when themoment to say something arrives is a little like this:

The two approach. Each notices the other at the exact samemoment, but their eyes shoot away. Almost as if in embarrassment,they search the ground, sky, windows and trees around Simpson foranything to focus on – anything but the other person.

After all, there’s nothing as uncomfortable as being caughtchecking someone out.

But this is different, people.

A courteous peek when you say “Hello” isn’t the same as aslack-jawed pervert look. It’s actually polite.

Look. Smile. Give a greeting. If you’re going to speak, speakclearly. Drop the bashful, barely breathed, “Hey,” that usuallysounds like a low sigh and makes little noise. Greet your fellowstudents like you mean it.

Unless the other person really hates you or is just plain mean,they’ll probably respond in kind.

(Note: if the person is actually just plain mean, it might be agood idea to refocus on the trees. Otherwise you might encounterthe less friendly, less seen “middle finger” greeting.)

Once you’ve got the hang of making yourself seen and heard, tryto freestyle a few new ways to say “Hi.”

Pretty soon, you’ll be an expert in your field – nodding,waving, bowing and curtseying all across campus with a smile onyour face.

Watch – it’s about to become contagious.