Do You Say Hi to Everyone You Meet?

My baby girl says, “Hieee” to everyone she meets.

When we’re out and about, she flashes her 8 pearly whites and insists that every passers-by return her enthusiastic, “hieee!” Sometimes people are intrigued and engage in conversation. Other times they appear shy, or even uncomfortable, and try to avoid eye contact. But nothing deters my baby girl; she’s this unstoppable bundle of friendliness.

So this got me thinking, “What makes people suspicious of friendliness?” And do I have the guts to say “hello” to everyone I meet?

“Image courtesy of Pong /”

Now, I grew up in a small, hi-saying town in Africa, where people loved greeting each other with handshakes, fist bumps, hugs, kisses, hi-fives, or jolly “hellos.” In fact, it was considered rude to ignore a passer-by; you were deemed arrogant or a show-off.

Fast forward several years and I found myself living in North America, where people were generally more reserved and prided their personal space. Influenced by my environment, I too began to cling to my little cocoon of personal space. I assumed that being dependent on people was a sign of weakness, forgetting that real power exists in interdependence and shared experiences, whether joyful or sad.

So my question is this: What happens between childhood and adulthood that causes people to lose their innocent and unconditional fascination with humanity? After all, children are the same everywhere: friendly, loving, innocent, and unassuming.

My daughter has taught me that engaging people on any level, even with a simple “hieee” can significantly impact our emotional psyche. It can shake us out of the nadir of routine into a connected world of new relationships and limitless possibilities. I mean, this 2-­foot toddler was interacting and having fun with folks 3 times her size! She greeted everyone, regardless of their mood, age, race, or gender.

My takeaway from this experience is: don’t wait to be greeted. And if no one greets you back, don’t be offended. Be the first to channel that hello, you never know what awesome personalities you could discover in the process.

Do you say “hi” to complete strangers? If not, what holds you back?

Copyright © 2012 Uwana.


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316 thoughts on “Do You Say Hi to Everyone You Meet?

  1. It’s hard to resist a child’s hello. I usually smile and say hello back. However, you have to be careful. Parents don’t know you. They can and should be wary of strangers. There are too many predators around, especially where you least expect it. In other situations, if someone gives me the “go ahead” at a stop sign, I usually wave a “thanks” and go without any big production. Anytime some says hello to me, like at my health club, I always say hello back or smile unless they are a creep stalking you which I’ve had happen to me several times at my health club. I’ve changed clubs since then. It really depends on the situation. There is a park that I go to where EVERYBODY says hello. This really took me by surprise. So, I smile and say hello back. But you know, all it takes is one bad experience. I hope you never have one.

    • I hear you. We do need to be careful and safe, always.

      But we also shouldn’t be too close-minded that we shut people out because of fear. Fear can be crippling. I let my daughter express herself under my watchful eye. After all, I am responsible for her safety.

      Thanks for caring. Bless!

      • I don’t know for sure. Unemployment, drug use, lack of education; I think these things contribute. I have to change the channel when the news anchor begins yet another story. I just can’t listen anymore.When parents are caught, they’re typically put in jail. One assumes that they’ve learned their lesson or maybe they’re in jail for a long period of time since so often the child in question dies from its injuries. However, sex predators are another story. After they serve time, they are set free to live wherever they chose. These people don’t change. I’m sure you heard about all the accusations towards the Catholic priests. Now we’re hearing about the Boy Scouts and the college football coach and the coverups involved in these cases. What next? If you can’t trust priests and the Boy Scouts, who can you trust?

  2. Reblogged this on Rajnie's Blog and commented:
    I don’t say Hi to everyone I meet. After reading your post, I’m thinking, Why Not? Will try this from now on. Thanks to your kid, to have prompted you to write this post. Cheers! :)

  3. Pingback: Do You Say Hi to Everyone You Meet? « Markpedder's Weblog

  4. I used to work with very young children, and their innocence and optimism and friendliness just astounds me. Most children grow up in a carefree society, they don’t know what it’s like to be truly hurt or disappointed or lied to nor have they been victimized in anyway… their minds are open and happy and it’s a joy to be around. Unfort the older we get as adults, reality sets in. We’ve been burned by people we trust, or have been disappointed by various situations that leaves us a bit more cautious and wary of strangers. And nowadays, i also find myself preoccupied with a dozen thins on my mind at one time, so whenever i’m walking around, i’m usually deep in thought and not paying attention to other people on the streets. I’d love to live in a society where everyone greets each other, ask about their days, and really make an effort to connect. But ’tis a high strung society we live in these days, and that stranger who is smiling as you may have an ulterior motive other than just being a friendly person…

    • Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing or hearing of children robbed of their innocence, because you’re right, not all children are fortunate enough to grow up in a carefree society.

      The thing with being hurt and disappointed as adults is that at some point we have to choose an alternate and better way for ourselves. We have to choose to let go of those hurt feelings and pain. And with the busyness of life, it’s also a choice to be “present” and not constantly preoccupied, cos I suffer from this dilemma.

      You’re also right, not all strangers are “friends,” but some are…let’s pray for wisdom to discern the truth in all situations. Thanks for sharing, bless!

  5. I usually don’t say hi to random people or strangers, but I try to smile to people I meet, especially those that make eye contact. I guess, as we grow older, we tend to find greeting strangers a bit awkward because we have stronger emotional barriers. We become more reserved and scared.

    Anyway, congrats on getting freshly pressed! :)

    • Hi and thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Smiling is powerful and not too many of us do it. And it really has the same impact as saying hi to someone.

  6. HI!

    A friend just told me that she says hi to everyone. The reason being that a depressed man told her once that if no one says hi to him that day, that it means he’s irrelevant. It means that nobody cares for him. After, that she made sure that every person, she saw got at least one “hi”.

  7. I think most of us are either overly self-conscious or self-absorbed, which is not surprising considering how communication has changed so much over the years. I wish I stepped out of my comfort zone a little more in talking to strangers, such great conversations I could have!

    • You hit the nail on the head: it’s about stepping out of our comfort zones. Baby steps, start witha smile or a nod. Funny thing about communication having changed is that we’re now more accessible than we’ve ever been, yet we’re also more self-absorbed. I must say though, this post has opened up some really great conversations, and for that I’m thankful. Bless!

  8. Wonderful article and definitely thought provoking! I think you nailed it when saying that you were influenced by your environment. I didn’t notice it with myself until I travelled overseas for the first time. Random people smiled and spoke as if they knew me for years. Initially it was uncomfortable but I quickly learned how ridiculous my own response must seem to them. How quickly we as adults become too self absorbed to simply say hello or acknowledge one another. I was guilty as charged. Traveling gave me a broader perspective thankfully, and Im grateful for that.

    Your daughter sounds amazing! Speaks volumes about you as a parent :) Great article

    • Thanks for your kind words.

      Yeah, environment is a major driving force. Some say it accounts for about 50% of our success in life. So exposing ourselves to new, diverse, and healthy environments through travel definitely transforms us.

      I’m guessing you now have the travelling bug, lol.

  9. That’ so lovely :) I guess Adults being shy with strangers are built upon the fact that they were told as kids, not to talk with strangers. In fact I am quite shy around strangers but when I see a kid smiling at me or waving a “Hi” that really lights me up. That unconditional love from a child really brightens up the day. Great post btw :)

    • Kids will do that to you. They can make the grumpiest of people smile. It’s this infectious joy they exude. We should capture it in a bottle and spray folks with it, lol.

  10. Pingback: Do You Say Hi to Everyone You Meet? « Gravity Gate

  11. Yes – I say Hi, Hello, What about ye? How’re you doin’?
    But then I’m happy to answer and be answered and talk about it.

    Anyone who can find it wthin themselves to respond to a small child greeting them is damaged in some in some way.

  12. Saying sometimes is too difficult for a man that constantly plaguing with problems. But here in Philippines we find not smiling to be a problem. So most of the Filipinos says hi and hello to foreigners and to our neighbors thru our smiles. Hi i am new here and i am looking forward to learn from your blogs. Hope you can post more inspiration. thank you.

    • Welcome to the blogosphere!

      Blogging has been a tremendous blessing for me. You get from it what you put into it. You’re obviously always welcome to my corner of the blogosphere. Thanks for the visit.

  13. I Loved your post! I have been wondering the same thing, and I’ve been trying to identify the exact moment or the circumstances that makes us change, although I think it is different for everyone, At least I am trying to find that point in my own life, because we probably mainly change because of the hard knocks of life, and because of that, we have to adapt, Also because of the way we have been programmed in our own culture, So I am trying to find the middle point and at least not let the 100% of the trust go, maybe just the 50% if i am lucky.

    • Thanks so much! Your blog is also really great and colorful.

      I agree that we shouldn’t let the negative aspects of past affect us adversely. We need to heal from our pain and learn from it.

  14. Love where this can go! There ought to be a “Hello Day” instead of “pride days” more people may have the chance to be accepted and learned about! Great read!

  15. I’ve always thought that my innocence got robbed when I was fairly young. At nine, I knew that joy came with a price — especially when mother only had enough for food and not for popsicles. I guess that’s it. We lose innocence in a multitude of ways, so we stop and shut down like clams.

    • I’m sorry to hear that.

      I can imagine you have a wealth of wisdom to share from your lifestory. How did you move forward from your difficult situation to a more positive place? I ask this because the tagline on your blog is, “Finding joy in the journey.”

      • My mom and dad believed that education is my salvation from poverty. Knowing how they sacrificed so much for me and my sister, I tried to make them happy by being diligent. After two scholarships and getting admitted into one of the best schools in the country (without meaning to brag), I finally got a job to support my family. Life is still hard being the breadwinner, but I sought spirituality, my sanity’s salvation from all the negative things that life offers. :D

  16. I find it easier to greet strangers if I’m out hiking or taking a walk and meet people that are doing the same. I always look them in the eyes and say “hi” – and they always greet me back. It’s probably because it feels like we have something in common, doing the same thing.

    When it comes to children, I often find their enthusiasm as an opportunity to start a conversation with the child and the parent. It’ impossible not to return a child’s smile.

    • Yeah, children are irresistible! I love observing the body language of parents when their children are socializing with others; they often appear awkward, like they’re not sure what to do. It’s great that you reel in the parents as well :)

  17. I always try to to say Hi or at least smile at people I meet during the day, however it does vary from town to town as to the response I get.

  18. I often think to myself that I should be saying “Hi” to people as I pass them or stand beside the in the elevator, but something stops me. I’m conscious of the fact that I’m not doing it, but can’t seem to change course. Maybe it’s stepping outside the norm and putting myself out there that stops me. Great article. Food for thought.

    • Exactly. It’s about taking risks and putting yourself out there. I’m making a conscious change to be more open and inviting; to strike up spontaneous conversations.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  19. Hi :)

    I wonder if it’s more of a cultural thing then people being rude or not caring. I’m in Australia, so saying ‘hi’ is a bit of a hit and miss game, but generally is someone says hi you say hi back. Going to Switzerland though, where I go once a year, people there will say hi to you and the person your with if you walk pass them, and it’s quite rude if you don’t say hi back. But that’s a bit of a cultural thing for the Swiss.

    On top of that adults, we get self-conscious and a little shy. Children, they’re the opposite of shy. In reality I think most people are friendly and open, and if it was culturally accepted to say hello and people have the courage to, it would happen.

    Good post! Can’t wait to have kids of my own!

    • But who determines what is culturally acceptable? What if we could redefine what is considered normal so that being friendly and smiling at people became the new norm?

      LOL, parenting certainly has it’s rewards :)

      • People determine what is a what is not culturally acceptable. If everyone had a mind set to smile and say ‘hi’ to everyone, it would be culturally accepted. But instead it’s culturally accepted to mind your own business and not talk, let alone say hi to strangers. At some stage of a child’s life it’s cute that they say ‘hi’ to strangers, and then at some point along the way it becomes dangerous.

      • It’s true that not everyone can be trusted, and it can be dangerous to interface with some people. However, I find that as a society, we tend to “mind our own business” even with acquaintances, neighbors, and colleagues…

      • Oh yeah, I agree with that 100%. It’s just interesting how a child goes from being all smiles and friendly into yet another person in society who minds their own business. Mind you I kinda think that if people weren’t so stressed and did things they enjoyed all day, people would be a lot more open and caring, which would mean that no one would really be alone in a time of need or ever feel left out. But that’s a perfect world…

      • I know hey, cos we were all children once. And you’re right, stress accounts for many of society’s emotional and health problems. I think if we strive to recreate positive and healthy environments in our spheres of influence, where we looked out for our neighbors, neglect and loneliness wouldn’t be so pervasive. Life is too short to be constantly stressed out.

  20. I don’t say hi to everyone for two reason. 1- i think my hello will offend that person and 2- what if that person doesn’t want to talk to me nor want to say even hello in return!

  21. Thank you for the thoughts and it’s no wonder we are torn. When my eldest was pre-school but almost ready to start, I gave him a lecture (I say lecture because I gave it strongly wanting him to remember it) about never taking candy from strangers. I felt he “got it” and put it behind us. One day we were at the grocery store and the manager (whom I knew) came up and offered him a small sucker. Bill’s face turned a ghastly white and he ran to me crying. I quickly told him that I knew this man and it was ok. Then I explained to the manager. He applauded my efforts and told Bill he did the right thing, but since we knew each other, this time it was ok.

    After that experience I remember being absolutely torn in half. One half wanted to protect my son at all costs, the other half wasn’t sure that the cost to my son and his carefree innocence which was torn away, was good enough reason. I still don’t know and he and his wife went through the same torn feelings with my Grandson. When is it enough? When is it too much?

    • You can’t be too hard on yourself. I’m of the mindset that when done out of love, a mother’s instinct is usually spot on. It is a tough dilemma. There are some crazies out there, so we can’t have our children thinking everyone is loving and trustworthy. I basically allow my daughter to explore her curiosity in a safe environment, around people we know. You do raise a very important point though.

  22. Great post! There is a huge disconnect between childhood, then our wonderful teenage years, then onto adult hood. It’s sad when you really think about how over rated being friendly is. I actually, do say hi to most people I meet. I do this mainly by smiling or nodding my head and my smiling, but none the less, I try to give what so easily cures a bad day is free-smiles :) Often, I will talk to the random strangers as well…just for fun!

    • You’re so right. These days the simple things in life have become complicated and inaccessible. Smiling is a natural ability that costs us nothing. I’m glad you’re being you and blessing folks along the way :)

      Cheers for your comment.

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  25. I would say “hieee” back! I’m 31 and I still enjoy playing “sweet and sour” in the car (where you wave at the person in the car next to or behind you and see if they wave back).
    I’m also from Africa (South Africa) where hugging and kissing hello is huge – and then I moved to the UAE where I met a multitude of nationalities as friends and have had to learn to not go dishing out hugs and kisses to just anyone! (Al though, I have managed to bring most of them around to hugging hello ;p )

    • Hey it’s always great to meet a fellow Southern African; I actually grew up in Swaziland!

      Sweet and sour sounds like a fun game. Imma have to try it out sometime. Thanks for the visit hey.

  26. I tried with smiling at everyone, it’s actually an interesting experiment, some people are like ” Ok, that’s awkward”, others smile back at you. I’ve realised that a stranger’s smile can really make your day much brighter. Since my visual appearance is not somehow ordinary, people tend to stare at me like I came from Mars, and it’s actually nice when I’m passing through the city and people give you a smile or a simple slight nod. It’s sad that people don’t tend to do that often, because it can really make your day. I remember when I was travelling through Japan, one really old lady approached me on the train, smiled at me and offered me a hand full of candies that she was eating.. I was like, WOW! Was I really offered some candies from a complete stranger in the middle of Japan?
    So from now on, I try to nod or give a slight smile to everyone that looks me in the eye :)

    • Haha, I like the way you say your “visual appearance is not somehow ordinary.” I guess having an unconventional look is 1 way of engaging folks. Interestingly, having a baby will also do that for you. I definitely have more conversations when I’m with my daughter than when I’m alone.

      You’re right, the kindness or smile of a stranger can be a blessing. Thanks for the chat :)

  27. Great post! This is why I love living in North Carolina, it’s completely acceptable to say “hello” to random people you are walking by! Growing up in DC? People thought you had escaped from the mental asylum if you greeted passers by.

  28. Haha kids are great! I really think that fear of rejection can be learned, and stops us from connecting with many people that deep down we would really like to connect with. I think there is definitely a lesson there for us adults :) great post

  29. Profound. Children, mostly regardless of their parentals’ preferences on being reserved, are almost always congenial and sweet to those they meet. At what point do they lose that to become more distrusting of other people?

    • Exactly. That is the million dollar question. I think if we do some introspection and soul searching, we can pin point events in our life that may have impacted our worldview. For some it may have been school bullying, abuse, overprotection, upbringing…

      The flip side is what type of upbringing did more confident, outgoing, and friendly folks experience. Essentially, our past experiences have a lot to do with this and we just need to find ways to heal and reinvent…

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  32. Gosh, I’m overly friendly! *laughing* I’m a huger which can make some people feel uncomfortable! They kind of stiffen as you approach them. It’s just the way I was brought up. I even say “hello tree” when I go to our property. Don’t laugh! Lol ….Paula x

  33. I tend to more in recent years and feel it’s an Americanism. When I was younger, it was only the Gap sales assistants that would be overly enthused to greet me on entering a shop, and I attributed that to the fact that’s what happens in America, now everyone does it, and it feels overwhelming and disingenuous.
    On the other hand, my grandad (91) greets everyone so I think it’s gone in a full circle.

  34. Hi, Yes more sincere Hi s needed. Im lucky because I work in a kindy and get lots of genuine His from 4 year olds. I live in Adelaide near the beach and we often say Good Morning or smile at passerbys walking on the beach but we dont often say Hi to passers by in the city streets only a few kms away. I tried it once and people asked me Do I know you? So city is strictly business-go to the beach, park or kindy if you need a Hi top up.!Thank children once again for spreading joy and making us think.

  35. Nice post Bupe and thanks for stopping by at Kibogoji. I too was raised in that small village in Afrika. The situation for greeting everyone nd their chickens is becoming an endangered species even in Afrika. I have no idea to why this is happening so quickly.

    • Hahaha, greeting everyone and their chickens, too funny! It’s sad to hear that people are becoming less friendly even back home. Still though, we’re miles ahead compared to the West in that department. I pray we never totally lose it.

  36. I have always lived in a small town in north Texas. I never thought about it until just now, but I’m pretty sure that I smile at everyone I make eye contact with. Just a habit, I guess. My son tries to talk to everyone we pass in the store, and I never understood why whenever he said “hi” to someone and wave, some of them would just look away. Come in people! At least wave back!

    My dad isn’t from Texas, and once asked my mom if she knew the person that had just waved at her in the passing truck, because she had waved back. She said “no”. He asked why she waved then. She said, “cause that’s what we do in Texas. :) And yes, I wave at just about everyone I pass on the road. I figure, it may make their day a little better.

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