Hello and Goodbye

Hello and goodbye, these words are like bookends to many human interactions that occur on a day-to-day basis. While reading the book, “Bringing up BéBé – One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman, the author touches on how Parisian parents make it a priority that their children not only say please and thank you, but hello and goodbye as well. In America, I often hear parents stress please and thank you, but I rarely hear them stress the importance of hello and goodbye. Honestly, I never gave much thought to the significance of a greeting and farewell in my life until reading this book.

When I worked in the restaurant and bar industry, it was a huge pet peeve of mine when people asked, or in most cases demanded food or a drink without saying please and thank you. However, upon reflection, I can recall it also being frustrating to me when I walked up to a table for the first time, and the customers just started barking demands at me without so much as a hello greeting, as if my role in life was to be at their beck and call.

In the book, Druckerman points out that, “Saying bonjour [hello] acknowledges the other person’s humanity.” It is such a true statement, saying a simple hello to someone acknowledges their presence in the world, it means I see you, I recognize you as a person with emotions and needs. If I was having a bad day when I was waitressing and I walked up to a table, and they snapped an order at me I can recall feeling less than, like they thought I was beneath them.

Druckerman makes an interesting point when she discusses why teaching kids to say hello, and goodbye is equally if not more so important than please and thank you. Druckerman explains, “Saying “please” and “thank you” puts children in an inferior, receiving role.” The adult has done or is going to do something for the child establishing a power imbalance between the child and the adult. However, saying “hello” and “goodbye,” Druckerman says, “puts the child and the adult on more equal footing, at least for that moment. It cements the idea that kids are people in their own right.” It teaches a child to act civilly and learn the importance of being an active member of society, which in this modern technological world will be an essential life skill to have.

Applying it to My Life

Upon reading this passage, I took note of how often I do not say hello/ good morning and goodbye/ have a nice day. I say it in a restaurant setting, but in many other situations, unless another person says it to me, I never initiate it. Part of it is my insecurity, and I recognize it may seem ridiculous to others. I am not naturally a bubbly or smiley person, so when I am put into a position where those traits are required, I feel awkward. Instead of making myself feel awkward I choose to avoid. It makes no sense, I can approach conflict head-on with no issue, but when it comes to a situation where I may feel awkward like saying a simple greeting, I avoid.

But, this seemed like such a simple adjustment in my life that I could make to, as Druckerman said, acknowledge another person’s humanity. We never know what another person is going through and perhaps just an uncomplicated “hello” from someone or “have a nice day” could make a world a difference in someone’s life. I also recognized now more than ever, that in give or take five weeks, I will have a little human watching my every move and what I do not want is to pass on my avoidance of situations where I feel awkward or uncomfortable on to him. Therefore, I have made more of an effort in the last couple of weeks to say “hello,” “good morning,” “goodbye,” and “have a nice day” to people I interact with, whether it is co-workers I barely know in the breakroom or Starbucks baristas.

I have come to recognize that often these interactions are met with a smile from the other person. I have noticed too that the more that I do it, the less awkward and uncomfortable I feel.

How often do you say a greeting or farewell? If it is not often, is there a reason why you don’t? I challenge you to investigate this reason, perhaps making a small adjustment in your life can have an impact on your day and those around you.