• Stuart Sheldon

How to Greet the World

photo by Lynn Kelley @WANA Commons


Years ago, under the auspices of meeting women, someone gave me this sage advice which I believe translates to any encounter.

NEVER GREET SOMEONE WITH THE SAME WORDS THEY SAY TO YOU.

Bad Greeting:

“Hi,” she said.

“Hi,” you said.

Good Greeting:

“Hi.”

“Hello.”

I know what you’re thinking: Dude, it’s a little more complicated than that. Of course … but each journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So step away from sounding like a silly junior-high echo machine.

It does not have to be complicated. In fact, simplicity and ease are paramount.

Good Greeting:

“Hi,” she said.

“Hello,” you said.

Better Greeting:

“Hi,” she said.

“How nice to see you,” you said.

Show a little creative juice. Ask an actual question for which you seek a genuine answer.

Even Better Greeting:

“Hi,” she said.

“How are you doing today?” you said.

We’ve covered the very basics. And you can live the rest of your life with the above info.

But let’s remember that our goal is not the greeting but the conversation. Or more accurately, the relationship.


Tout Le Monde, acrylic, oil pastel and charcoal on paper, 16″x12″, 2003, Stuart Sheldon


A great many of our human interactions are what the genius founder of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, calls collisions. One of the reasons I like living in cities and in physical proximity to other like-minded people is the opportunity to randomly collide with “good friends I’ve never met before.” This is not just because I’m A.D.D. and like spontaneous intercourse interaction.

Serendipity is always one chance encounter away.

This idea of collisions has been proven to accelerate innovation in all walks of life. This certainly holds true in my writing and art making. “Research has shown that most innovation happens as the result of something outside your industry being applied to your own. These are usually the result of random conversations happening and ideas generated as a result of collisions,” says Hsieh. In other words, much of society’s critical progress is due to happy accidents.

So, add a little extra “happy” to your accidents.

Extra Happy Greeting:

“Hi,” she said.

“Can I ask you a question? What is the best thing that’s happened to you today?” you said.

Or, if you wake up on top of the world and are really feeling strong, get goofy. Why not? Life is so painfully short.

Extra Extra Happy Greeting:

“Hi,” she said.

“Have you ever held a starfish?” you said.

Now, he or she either thinks you’re adorable or a freak … or an adorable freak … but he or she is definitely thinking about you. And the conversation, for better or worse, is now officially ON.

There are no limits and few ground rules to a solid salutation. You must look em in the eye. But not too hard. That creeps all of us out. And no limp handshakes, unless you want the person to throw up in their own mouth. The question is really where are you at at the moment of contact. Be THAT way.

And you need not be Mr. Shiny Happy People Guy either. Sometimes, we cannot mask our sadness when meeting another.

Sad Greeting:

“Hi,” she said.

“Hello,” you said.

 Yes, this is the same Good Greeting as above. Your eyes say the rest. Often, this is when the very best conversation of all begins.

What is the best greeting you ever received from a stranger?

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©2020 Stuart Sheldon.