Do you say hi to acquaintances/classmates?
November 6, 2012 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Do you say hi to acquaintances/classmates?

Hi, okay so I am bit socially awkward, my parents sheltered me socially and plus I have a bit of social anxiety so it's hard for me to go out and make new experiences and know social norms, so I'll just ask here.

I am under the impression, if you've meet someone a few times/they are friends with your friends and you've met them/they are your classmates and you've talk them a few times; when you pass them up in public or around campus you should say 'Hi' or smile/wave. And it seems like about half of these people avoid eye contact (thus I won't say hi because they aren't even looking at me) and/or won't initiate saying "hi" first (where I've said Hi first a bunch of times). Is this normal? Do acquaintances not say simple "Hi's" to each other? Am I just being the annoying person who says Hi to people lol? Just wondering, because I have stunted social intelligence and I'm trying to get better at it.
posted by Osakhomen to Human Relations (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
No longer in school but yeah, I always did this. If I knew their name, I'd use that too. It's totally okay.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:49 PM on November 6, 2012

Well, I'm a pretty outgoing person who enjoys talking to people, so I say "Hi" or "Hello" quite a bit to acquaintances. But then, I'm also the kind of person who, in college, would plunk my lunch tray down at a table of strangers and introduce myself. I'm just that way.
posted by michellenoel at 4:50 PM on November 6, 2012

I went to a really small school where you could easily walk past the same person five or more times per day. As a result a lot of people only said hi the first time, or didn't say hi that often, or only said hi to close friends. If you like saying hi to acquaintances I don't think anyone dislikes having hi said to them, but I think a lot of people just feel awkward or silly saying "hi" over and over.
posted by telegraph at 4:52 PM on November 6, 2012

Response by poster: Also do you think is odd or weird to say "Hi" first even you don't know them that well... but obviously both of you recognize each other?
posted by Osakhomen at 4:52 PM on November 6, 2012

Adding the "eyebrow raise" and chin-lift-jut to your repertoire may help. They're like the barest acknowledgements of another person. No words required. And if others don't see it or don't respond you don't feel lame.

And don't feel like you have to acknowledge the same people every single time you see them.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:53 PM on November 6, 2012 [12 favorites]

Go ahead, be the person who says "Hi" all the time. Or don't. Either way you're okay.

Personally, I lean toward saying "Hi" to acquaintances (or even people I see regularly around the neighborhood) because it feels nice.
posted by notyou at 4:54 PM on November 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

It is 'normal' (in my experience) for people not to say hello to each even though they know each other is situations as you describe. But, your saying "hi" is a great thing, not odd or weird but wonderful. Don't stress! Keep saying 'hi'.
posted by marimeko at 4:55 PM on November 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, I feel so lame. So what do you do if you see the same person more than once? Just ignore them? That's not rude?
posted by Osakhomen at 4:55 PM on November 6, 2012

Yes, say hi and their name if you know it. You won't annoy people just by saying hi to them. If you see them like 5 times within an hour you don't have to keep saying it, just smile, nod, etc. If they are not making eye contact with you it is probably that they are distracted or shy themselves.
posted by cairdeas at 4:55 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

hi or a smile or nod is great! people that ignore contact like that are awkward, and rub me the wrong way. A simple acknowledgement of existence goes a long way and makes people happy!
posted by katypickle at 4:56 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

More than once? Maybe just eye contact, a smile and a nod.
posted by marimeko at 4:56 PM on November 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Smiles work, too, as a simple substitute acknowledgment, if you're running across the same people too often. I know what you're saying--some people definitely don't respond the way you'd think--but in general it can't ever really hurt you to be friendly, courteous, and outgoing. Good luck.
posted by Levi Stahl at 5:00 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think another thing that really got me, was last weekend I went to a party and was a bit intoxicated and other classmates who were there were intoxicated too... and this one person in particular who I know semi-well gave me a big hug. And then yesterday when I was walking past the person, the person totally avoided eye contact. I mean, I don't expect us to be best friends, but a little acknowledgement seems socially appropriate... so thats how I came to ask this question because I was thinking I might have been over the top in saying Hi to acquaintances, when most people don't do so.... but it seems that I'm fine. Thanks :)
posted by Osakhomen at 5:03 PM on November 6, 2012

Say "hi" to acquaintances/classmates/coworkers as you see them, at least the first time in the day. If you've already seen them earlier that day, you can give a slight nonverbal recognition. In that case, a "hi" is still OK, but it's optional.

Don't worry that much about any one interaction. After all, you're not the only one with less-than-perfect social skills — people often behave awkwardly. Just keep doing your thing, with confidence.
posted by John Cohen at 5:11 PM on November 6, 2012

Are you in California? People there don't say hi, its weird. Everywhere else I've lived people say hi the first ime they see each other. Or do the head nod thing or a half wave at least. Californians, otoh, practically duck down side alleys when they see someone they know to avoid making eye contact.
posted by fshgrl at 5:12 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I say completely say hi.

Part of the reason they're not is probably because they're awkward about it too and would probably think it a relief if someone else is breaking the ice so that they don't have to put themselves out there first. Your hi may put them at ease, which then may give them the confidence to take the chance/say hi next time (or some time after) which will put you at ease, and so on and so forth.

I think that's how friends happen.
posted by urbanlenny at 5:16 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, I've always been told -- as a Californian -- that we say hello A LOT. I always say hi, myself, anyway.

is one person in particular who I know semi-well gave me a big hug. And then yesterday when I was walking past the person, the person totally avoided eye contact.

Who knows what's going on with other people. Maybe that person had a lot on her mind. Most of the time, this stuff has nothing to do with you personally. Say hi! Hardly anyone will think you are weird if you greet someone you know. The conspiratorial "what up" chin jut works nicely if you don't want to say hello, too -- I always used to call this The Frat Boy Head Nod, but I totally use it.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:23 PM on November 6, 2012

Smile cheerfully when you see someone you know. Do NOT be worried or anxious if they don't smile back -- often times people are so wrapped up in their own thoughts that they don't always register when someone's saying hello to them.

Above all else, remember this: nobody cares as much about you, your life, and your behaviors as you do. Let go of your worries about how others perceive you. It's out of your control, and it's not your business to worry about.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:20 PM on November 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

It could be a regional-differences type thing. I grew up in the Northeast; the first time I went to visit a friend in the South, it seemed like *every* *single* *person* I crossed paths with (usually NOT knowing them) said hi to me, and that struck me as completely bizarre and frankly kind of creepy. Because, in my regional society, greetings were generally only given to people you actually knew fairly well. Strangers and passing acquaintances would not get greeted/acknowledged.

I have traveled quite a bit since then and have found that generally the closer you get to NYC, the less friendly people are to strangers and acquaintances also; conversely, the further away you are from NYC, the more people wave, say hi, acknowledge each others existence.

In a situation like college, if you have NYC-proximate people associating with folks from other areas, well, miscommunication and/or random offense-taking ensues.
posted by Ardea alba at 6:30 PM on November 6, 2012

Short answer: they are probably wondering whether they should say hi to you.

Long answer: If you feel like it, go ahead. If you don't feel like it, don't do it. Also, they might not be 100% sure if they recognise you if you've only met a few times/ not feel like talking to people/ saw you earlier and thought you were ignoring them (when actually you didn't see them)/whatever. So don't feel weird if they don't acknowledge you/ don't respond. The first couple of times, anyways. I'd drop it after a few failed attempts.
posted by windykites at 6:35 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

And then yesterday when I was walking past the person, the person totally avoided eye contact.

You're projecting what you don't like about yourself onto them. Maybe...

-They legitimately didn't see you
-They were spaced out
-They'd just seen a squirrel
-They didn't have their glasses or contacts in and couldn't really see anything

Etc. There's a legion of reasons beyond they're totally avoiding you because you say hi too much.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:35 PM on November 6, 2012

If it's a social acquaintance or classmate that you've talked to at least a few times then say "hi, how are you?" or "hey, how's it going?" when you see them.

Don't bother greeting people if you have an awkward past or things ended on a bad note unless they initiate conversation first.

Also, you don't have to greet someone every single time you're out and about. Most people will rarely take offense let alone notice because they're too wrapped up in their own minds or technology to notice all of the people around them.
posted by rylan at 6:37 PM on November 6, 2012

Response by poster: Yeah, I'm from the south and go to school in the south. IDK, maybe it just my warped belief system that you say Hi to people who are acquaintances and if you don't it's rude. I say Hi to strangers sometimes, especially if they are workers around campus. Thanks everyone for helping me out, you don't know how much I appreciate it. :)
posted by Osakhomen at 7:21 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's nice that you say hello to workers around campus. I used to be buds with the dining hall ladies at my university and it was great fun.

Offering a smile is a perfectly fine substitute for a "hi."
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:32 PM on November 6, 2012

I've walked past friends plenty of times where they've waved at me, smiled at me, called out my name, whatever, and completely not noticed. Usually I'm just lost in my thoughts, and generally staring aimlessly at nothing, paying just enough attention to what's around me to not walk into a tree and get to wherever I'm walking to. Doesn't mean I'm avoiding anything, or wouldn't say hi back if I noticed.

That said, there is the case that the person in question actually does dislike you. Some people at uni can be immature, and if it's one specific group of people who are friends and this behaviour is mostly restricted to, just... ignore them. It happens.

The rest of the time - keep saying hi! Or waving or smiling or... It's polite, and nice to walk by someone and have them say hi.
posted by Ashlyth at 8:48 PM on November 6, 2012

My rule of thumb: If we've had a conversation outside of necessary class interaction, they get a "hello" and a smile. Anything less, they get the standard nod-and-smile, if they make eye contact.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:04 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my Californian experience: you say hi to folks you are on good terms with. If you are on bad terms with someone, you're ex-friends of long duration, or the other person is studiously pretending to look anywhere but where you are, you ignore them.

I don't know why the latter is a thing here, but there are definitely people I used to know who really would rather not say hi to me, and we weren't ending on bad terms so much as a "mutually drifted off years ago" sort of thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:00 PM on November 6, 2012

I usually do the smile and nod. People whom I know well enough to have a conversation with get an actual "hi." I don't really notice if someone is friendlier than those norms though-if anything I feel bad for not reciprocating, so I wouldn't worry about it.

The other thing is sometimes it can be a bit awkward when you see someone you know from a distance. If you're walking towards each other but don't want to stop and talk, it feels awkward to say hi too soon but equally awkward to just stare at each other as you approach. In those case I'll avoid eye contact until I'm close enough to actually say hi but sometimes the timing gets screwed up or whatever and it seems like I'm totally avoiding someone when I'm not.

Mostly though I wouldn't overthink this. People like been said "hi" to.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 10:21 PM on November 6, 2012

Say hi to people you know/have spoken with previously. Smile if you pass them again later in the day. No biggie, you're totally acting normal with this.
posted by emd3737 at 3:07 AM on November 7, 2012

Hmmm, I say hi and start talking to people I don't even know. For example, if I am at a store and our carts almost collide, I will say hi and start talking to people I have never even met...
posted by TinWhistle at 6:05 AM on November 7, 2012

I wanted to weigh in: A surprising number of people are face-blind (myself included), but we have adapted to fake it by recognizing other things such as voice, gait, hair style, the backpack you always carry, etc. And most people are not 100% face-blind. For example, I can probably pick out my mother in a crowd, even with different hair and skin tone. But for a classmate who I'd always see seated (i.e. not walking), I probably wouldn't say hi if I'm just passing by, since that person is not talking (no voice to recognize) and I don't know their gait.

So don't take it personally if someone doesn't say hi.
posted by ethidda at 9:31 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're doing just fine. Feel free to just give a nod or a smile if you see them more than once, though.

Keep in mind that some people aren't paying attention to things around them, or are busy and don't want to stop for a conversation, so they might not acknowledge you. It's not a personal slight, it's them being in their own world. (I'm quite fond of this tactic when I'm grumpy/in a rush.)
posted by buteo at 12:44 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Am I just being the annoying friendly person who says Hi to people lol?

Fixed that for you.
posted by pompomtom at 4:35 PM on November 7, 2012

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