Just Saying Hello

by Erik Assadourian | 11/8/99 6:00am

Hi. How are you? How you doing? Nice day. Good morning/afternoon/evening. Even 'sup?' will work if that's your preference. These are all perfectly great ways to interact with fellow Dartmouth students as you cross paths with them on your way to one of the numerous classes, activities and events that fill up your days here in Hanover.

What is not acceptable (and I've done it myself -- but am not proud of it), is glancing up at someone, recognizing them and quickly glancing away hoping that they didn't already catch your eye but knowing that they did. Why is it that we do this? Why is it that we proceed to intentionally not acknowledge the existence of fellow human beings even though we have interacted with them before? Well, I'm going to try to get to the bottom of this right now and try to convince you all to say hi to everyone you can in order to make Dartmouth a warmer community.

I think many times we don't say hello because we're afraid that the other person won't say hi back. No one likes to say hi to someone and be ignored. This threatens your self-esteem because the non-responders clearly have either forgotten you or don't feel it's worth acknowledging you (both of which suggest you're not as interesting as you may have thought).

But I've found that if you keep saying hi to people they will start responding -- maybe it's just that they were feeling the same way -- that they were afraid to keep saying hi because they didn't want you to not respond. Let's admit it, we all want to be accepted/liked (the media and businesses capitalize on this desire) and so none of us want to have our self-view (of being liked) threatened by people who do not say hi. So instead of risking saying hi to others who may not say hi back, we quickly glance away and feign lack of noticing them or lack of recognition (which of course just perpetuates this horrible cycle).

But I ask you all, how many of you truly feel too cool to say hi to people that you've interacted with before? If so, maybe there is a problem with you. For the most of us though I think it's just a lack of communication -- literally and figuratively. We've been driven to silence because of a fear of negative feedback (i.e. more silence resulting in lowered self-esteem).

Ironic, isn't it? My ideal suggestion then, is to greet everyone that you know, ever knew, or have somehow interacted with sometime in your Dartmouth career. If you know their name through direct interaction, then there is no excuse. Heck, why not say hi to everyone!?! But this is easier said than done. I'm a realist. I know that it's not part of the New England nor the Dartmouth culture to openly and cheerily greet everyone we pass. Maybe, it's that we feel too busy (and we think saying hello will waste too much of our precious time), maybe it's connected with the cold, miserable weather or probably more likely it's just the go-go-go attitude of the Dartmouth lifestyle, but in any case it happens.

And when it doesn't -- i.e. when I am greeted by someone, whether I know them or not, I feel a little taste of joy -- like wow!, that person just spent some of his energy converting air into sound waves just to make me a bit happier. I would claim that saying hello is a subtle example of altruism. But moreover, the greeter makes himself happier too. It's rewarding to bring happiness to others and at the very least, by saying hello you avoid the awkwardness that goes along with the whole glance, redirect eyes, ignore strategy.

So if you can afford to, and we all can since as we all know "talk is cheap (at least in a caloric sense)," say hi to everyone. But for those of you in which this is asking too much, maybe we can at least establish some guidelines so that you will at least feel comfortable with saying hi to a larger group of people.

Say hello:

1) If you have had a class with the person in which the names were actually learned -- i.e. seminars, classes of under 25, etc.

2) If you were introduced to them by a mutual friend, professor, or acquaintance.

3) If you've had any meaningful conversation whatsoever.

4) If you've been in an activity together.

5) If you were in the same DOC trip group.

and 6) If you feel like sharing a little of your good mood with others that you pass.

Saying hello is rewarding. It brings a sort of transferable warmth that we can share with everyone, and as the winter draws nearer (it's snowing as I write), we are going to need as much of this warmth as possible.

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