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April 25, 2011 11:14 PM   Subscribe

What do you say to friends or acquaintances when passing each other while walking in opposite directions?

As a college student I walk by a number of friends or acquaintances every day as I travel around campus. Often these exchanges pretty much solely entail, "Hey, what's up, how are you? Good, thanks, how are you? Good."

I can't take it anymore, but I'm not quite sure what I could say to mix things up a bit / provide a bit of joy to their lives in such a short interaction as we're walking in opposite directions.

Any suggestions?

Many thanks!
posted by masters2010 to Human Relations (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Any suggestions?

Yeah, don't be that guy. Just say "hi" or "hey" or whatever. For every person to whom you "provide a bit of joy" to with a wacky greeting every time you pass her/him, there will be at least one who grows increasingly annoyed with you each time, and two or more additional who will begin to mentally roll their eyes when they see you coming and adjust their routes accordingly.
posted by dersins at 11:27 PM on April 25, 2011 [24 favorites]

As someone who is usually in my own little world, I rely on stock conversations like these to allow me to be friendly but not have to snap out of whatever I'm thinking about. If you switched up the conversation, there would be this super awkward long pause as I have to switch gears, focus, come up with a reasonable answer, and articulate it without sounding stupid. In short, it wouldn't provide joy to my life.
posted by pecknpah at 11:28 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

learn how to say "what's up?" or other variations (perhaps silly words ie:unicorn) and inform your passerby of the language. learning and fun=YAY

you can also play the ugly face game.. but apparently i am one of a few who like a bright of sunshine between the monotony and boredom of my classes (particularly this time of year)
memail me if interested in the deets on the ugly face game!
posted by fuzzysoft at 11:30 PM on April 25, 2011

I usually just give a bright, silly smile, say "Hey!", and keep walking briskly. But now that I think about it, this is probably one of those problems that could be solved by habitually utilizing fingers guns and a "click, click" mouth noise.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:44 PM on April 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

These things work better when they're inside jokes. I have a friend who I greet with "hey dickhead" because that was his nickname in the poetry class we took. Sometimes, I greet close friends with exaggerated waving (as though I'm trying to catch their attention from a distance).

For 90% of friendships, stick with the gold standard of "hey, what are you up to?"
posted by yaymukund at 11:58 PM on April 25, 2011

I had a college friend who would just give a silent, very pleasant nod and smile to friends or acquaintances in passing. Sometimes he would accompanying it with the person's first name. It worked because it suited his personality, and I've always remembered it as something distinctive and interesting about him -- a tad aloof yet decorous and somehow still friendly.
posted by cymru_j at 12:09 AM on April 26, 2011

"Hey." "Wassup." Head nod. Eyebrow raise.

Spreading joy is awesome, but subjective. Yes, you may become 'that person' who is then avoided for these attempts to spread joy. Proceed with caution re: anything elaborate.
posted by mleigh at 12:09 AM on April 26, 2011

"Tere, ilusat päeva!"
posted by joannemullen at 12:18 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do what I do...walk around with your headphones on. People usually ignore and/or don't talk to me because they assume that I can't hear. If you catch each other's eye, smile and wave and KEEP WALKING. It's not a rude way because it's not as if you are brushing them off. I had to deal with this when I was in college and it got annoying pretty quickly.
posted by penguingrl at 12:20 AM on April 26, 2011

Just smile and keep walking, pal, I've got shit to do.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:29 AM on April 26, 2011 [9 favorites]

I'm with Dersins, here ("don't be that guy"), though I will sometimes try to say something different sometimes myself, as long as it's true and not just empty variety for variety's sake. So depending on the person or situation...

"Great presentation."
"Drinks Friday?"
"Goddamn Yankees."
"Great hat!"
posted by rokusan at 12:48 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Heh, I did that work etiquette question. 3 years on the job and it's not much easier with the relatively newer workers.

As far as college campus goes, if you're not much for chit-chat, just wave, nod, or "hi." Otherwise, if there's something on your mind, like an anecdote, question, or observation, bring it up. If the other person has the same, they'll let you know.

If the "how are you"s from other people are getting old, give brief friendly responses and walk on, and don't ask how they are. Over time, this will devolve into a quick and efficient "Hi."-"Hey." exchange.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:58 AM on April 26, 2011

I like a nod and a "Good day." It's outdated enough to be a little cheeky, but not so out there as to put you in the realm of "that guy."
posted by yellowbinder at 1:53 AM on April 26, 2011

I do the nod almost exclusively. I hate being forced to talk when I have nothing to say to that person. With the nod, though, you need to make eye contact for at least a moment.
posted by ZaneJ. at 3:05 AM on April 26, 2011

before you make a decision, please think about this.. picture everyone, i mean EVERYONE, doing what you do.. is it now annoying??? I thought so.

Like BOP said above, just walk by, unless you've some reason to engage.
posted by tomswift at 3:28 AM on April 26, 2011

Quite a few of my college friends have told me, way after the fact, that they thought I was a jerk at first because I would always ignore them as I passed them on campus. It turns out that I was just lost in my own world, walking from class to class, and genuinely didn't notice them. But it didn't affect my friendship with any of them, in the end. I'm still great friends with the majority of them. So: I don't think it matters that much.
posted by sklero at 3:59 AM on April 26, 2011

I say head nod, either up or down, or if you are feeling punchy, "Morning, Sam" should suffice, and if your friend is cool, they will respond, "Morning, Ralph."
posted by frecklefaerie at 4:04 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

"Hey, what's up, how are you? Good, thanks, how are you? Good."

...I'm not quite sure what I could say to... provide a bit of joy to their lives in such a short interaction

To me, the joy comes from seeing someone I know and like. All I need is a warm smile and the same boring stock greeting that everyone gets. I don't need my friends to say something special to bring joy into my life, having friends who greet me is the good part.

If you really want to be that guy, you could come up with something unusual. But make sure it's no longer than the usual stock greeting (quoted above) or else it'll be a burden on them (their experience: stop, listen, process, realize what the hell you're talking about, move on with life, maybe smile if I get it). Frankly, I think you'll get more mileage out of being a pleasant person to spend time with and just sticking to the stock greeting.
posted by Tehhund at 4:18 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like to look directly into their eyes and give an almost indiscernible nod. I pretend that I am in an Ocean's Eleven-esque movie scene and having completed my part in the plan, I am handing over to my associate for phase 2.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:31 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Something like, "Morning! Great hat!" - throw in a brief, sincere compliment, if you can come up with one quickly. easy way to put a smile on someone's face. Of course if it's a group you're greeting, I wouldn't try this, it'd just get weird.
posted by lemniskate at 5:37 AM on April 26, 2011

Greeting, Name. Then keep walking. People don't hear their names enough and they like it. This is hard to start because you might know everyone's names at first, but you'll start remembering them when your brain knows it'll be saying them later.
posted by michaelh at 5:56 AM on April 26, 2011

One of the guys who lived in my dorm was 'the Pez guy'. He always had his Pez dispenser full and handy, and would dispense them liberally. "Hi!" Pez?" "Sure! Thanks!" was usually the extent of the exchange. It livened things up, and didn't require any deep thought.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:50 AM on April 26, 2011

The tougher question is whether or not you actually break stride, and stop and chat. This is always complicated as both parties have to do some quick calculus to determine whether or not the friendship is close enough to warrant a quick chat. But let's say you both decide to just keep walking....

There are so many ways you can mix it up if you are the initial greeter:

High-five / Hand Slap
"What's up"
"Good afternoon/morning/evening"
"Hey Chief!"
"Hey Good Lookin"
"How are you today"
"Where you been?!?!?!"
"Always a pleasure!" with the nod
"What's crackin"

And there are so many ways you can respond to "How are you?". Bermudians have made this a fine art:

"Not as good as you"
"You got it all"
"Everything is chicken but the gravy"
"I'm just living in your world"
"I'm safe"
"I really couldn't be better"
"Good, thanks for asking"
"I'm blessed"
posted by jasondigitized at 7:33 AM on April 26, 2011

I would completely avoid you if you did any of the things jasondigitized suggested. "Hey" and a nod is sufficient if you don't have anything to actually say to the other person.
posted by desjardins at 8:20 AM on April 26, 2011

I usually grin and offer a quiet "Vrroooooommmmm!" (with added Doppler effect.)
posted by xedrik at 9:49 AM on April 26, 2011

Douglas Adams had some helpful tips on corridor etiquette.
posted by Crane Shot at 10:31 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't take it anymore, but I'm not quite sure what I could say to mix things up a bit / provide a bit of joy to their lives

Nthing everyone above, don't be "that guy," ugh. Also this isn't so much about bringing joy to other people as it is about filling a need for yourself. You say you "can't stand it anymore" with just the usual conversation, so it's about your needs, not theirs.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:46 PM on April 26, 2011

A smile and nod are fine. So is a simple greeting that doesn't require a response: "Hi!" is fine, "How are you?" isn't.
posted by tangerine at 4:05 PM on April 26, 2011

I usually just say "hello, hello!"
as I wave and keep walking.
It works the first, fifth and fiftieth time I see my co-workers in a day.

[when it's someone I think is on my wavelength, I'll often propose a secret hand signal...]
posted by calgirl at 5:13 PM on April 26, 2011

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