How to be more graceful in the way I greet co-workers in the morning?
September 21, 2016 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Hi Mefites I'd like to be more graceful in the way I greet my coworkers. Maybe I'm making the problem bigger than it actually is but... it's bugging me recently! I don't like the way I greet people, especially in my workplace. Reasons below :

1st - I'm deaf and my pronunciation isn't wonderful. I know I don't pronounce the word "hello" (it isn't hello per se, my language isn't English) very well. It's as if I were saying uhhlloww, I guess :) I'm not terribly ashamed by it but I really hate pronouncing this word. I often end up saying the equivalent of hi if I'm close enough with said co-worker or I say hello in English, which is acceptable in my workplace but not perfect perfect.

2nd - I'm not great at eye contact. I have an (over) fixed gaze when people are talking to me, due to lip reading, but on first encounter in the morning it seems impossible for me to make any kind of eye contact... I'm an enthusiastic, expressive person but not when I say hello... I think I come off as... I don't know, cold? As if I weren't happy to greet my co-workers, which isn't true! The way I greet people isn't the way I want. I want to be able to make eye contact, smile, say hello / hi / whatever + co-worker name enthusiastically.

Oh and to add a level of complication : in my workplace greetings happen this way : men - men shake hands, men-women kiss on each cheek, women-women kiss on each cheek. I'm a woman and not always confortable with kissing co-workers, but whatever, this cannot change (I KNOW).

3rd - I'd love to be able to say "hi + name". I think adding the name after the greeting adds a level of warmth I'd like to convey (but tell me if I'm wrong!) and for some reason I don't manage to do it, except for the closest co-workers...

How could I practice this? Speech therapy isn't really an option because 1- time 2 - I've spent 20 years here, if it were possible for me to pronounce hello correctly I would be able to by now...

How do I gain some grace when greeting someone? Should I practice in front of a mirror? Video tape myself (ugh)? Other?

Thank you in advance!
posted by Ifite to Human Relations (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How about a short bu friendly wave with a smile, followed by a, "Hi!" if you can manage that?

I would be totally uncomfortable with any coworkers who I do not deem friends outside of work coming up and kissing me as a standard greeting, and I don't really shake hands accept at really formal occasions.

Take out the extra smiley from this, but this is my "work wave." Except I keep my fingers together and only do a quick back and forth a couple of times compared to this video.
posted by zizzle at 8:31 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

After 20 years, people probably know you don't pronounce "hello" well, but they must know that's what you're saying. So a smile, a nod, and your "hello" should be fine.
posted by Dolley at 8:42 AM on September 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

First, co-workers who interact with you regularly and going to think about you as the average their encounters. So if you are usually enthusiastic and friendly, that is how they are going to think of you even if your first greeting is not as warm as your usual interactions. So start by assuring yourself that even though you feel self-conscious, your assessment is far worse than theirs.

That said, I tried to think I would do. (I'm much better at giving advice not to worry so much than I am at taking it.) The challenge is that this is going to be so culture specific! My suggestion would be work on "happy to see you" body language. Would it work to smile and say their name in a happy voice? Or this just substituting one thing that is hard for two other things? Or take Doiley's suggestion, assume they know what you are saying and don't worry about the pronunciation of "hello"?
posted by metahawk at 9:08 AM on September 21, 2016

If the word hello doesn't work for you, could you try a different formulation? "Good morning!" :Hi there!"

Also, I don't see why appending their name at the end is giving you trouble; could you elaborate on that?
posted by Liesl at 9:11 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

My opinion is that you're WAY over thinking this. I spend WAY too much time worrying over what I think other peoples' perceptions of me may be, so holy hell do I ever get it. I worry very very often that I come off as cold/bitchy because I'm fairly intense and matter of fact, so then I over compensate by being too emotive... And I overshare. And I curse too much. Yeah, I suck at social interactions so very very much. I also am rocking 4 intense years of speech therapy as a child and still to this day am self conscious because I feel like I still have a speak impediment (though apparently it is imperceptible to others unless I get drunk, then I become all Lispy McGoo). I also sometimes unknowingly and unintentionally slip in to an "Irish" inflection/accent, which makes no sense because I have no Irish heritage and have never been to Ireland etc. My husband calls it "Irish Lady" and finds it endearing, but I think it is the weirdest verbal tick ever and I'm never aware of when I do it so I'm sure I do it at work sometimes by accident and people are no doubt thinking "WTF! Why is she using an Irish accent?!"

Anyway, I get you. I so so get you.

Your way of saying hello... I can pretty much guarantee no one else is bothered by it, and I can pretty much guarantee that no one is judging you for it. As for your coming off cold because you can't make eye contact, if people know you're deaf and rely upon lip reading no doubt they understand that, especially if you smile and make eye contact while YOU'RE speaking. Know what I mean? And when you smile make sure it reaches your eyes (Google it, there are tons of info on this), or else it can look forced/insincere. This is also key to "looking good in pictures". People who look awkward in pictures are usually smiling but not smiling with their eyes. But I digress...

That said, there are a ton of variations on greetings aside from "Hello".
- Howdy
- Morning
- G'day
- Hey
- Hi
- Hi there
- Greetings!
- Cheers
- Hola
- Wasssaaaaaaaap! (not recommended)

There are also tons of non-verbal ways to greet people. Like others, I'd not be down with the kiss/touching greetings, but I guess everyone's work culture is different...

Anyway, I generally do the smile-and-nod greeting.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:11 AM on September 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

I think if your workplace is so informal that people actually kiss on the cheek on a regular basis (which, ick, but anyway), "Hi, [name]" is fine. I work in a rather formal workplace and it's totally acceptable to say "Hi, [formal title]" to high-ranking people in the hallways. I usually say, "Hi, [formal title], how are you?" That seems to be well-received.

But as others have pointed out, it's probably more about facial expression and body language than anything else; as long as you sound friendly, people probably aren't going to worry much about the actual words, as long as they're within the realm of reason like "Hey" or "hi."
posted by holborne at 9:14 AM on September 21, 2016

If you're willing to say what country you're in, it might actually get you more useful answers. For two reasons. First, people might give you good alternatives to "hello" for that language. Second, because lots of Mefites are English-speaking people living in non-English-speaking countries. Most expats I know have little tricks for navigating cultural mores they're not comfortable with, like the kissing thing.

One thought that comes to my mind: do you use sign language? You could start using basic signs with your coworkers. The novelty of it would help bypass the awkwardness you're feeling. And by creating a different physical thing people do when they see you in the morning, you could replace the kiss.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:31 AM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

What if instead of stressing about the "hello" part of the equation, you add something else, either to that interaction or a little later in the day? Maybe like "how was your weekend?" Or "how was your drive in?" Or "looking forward to your presentation!" Showing interest in people is much more valuable than saying hello perfectly.

Also, if you're Deaf and speaking a non-native language, I bet your coworkers are not judgemental about your pronunciation- I would think only a total shithead would be judgemental about two perfectly good reasons for pronouncing a word in a certain way.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:36 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've noticed that one of the most socially with-it women in my office usually says "hi, name!" in a slightly more energetic way than the less socially ept (like myself - but at least I say hi, unlike the people who just avoid eye contact). I've tried adding names, but it definitely takes attention, especially at first (morning brain can forget names, be on other continents).

She, also, tends to compliment something pretty often - "nice scarf!" or "cool jacket!" or "neat bracelet" for extra pleasant encounters, and I've found that easier sometimes than adding names. So if there's something Others do that helps you feel extra at-ease, see if there's a way to do that with your coworkers, too.
posted by ldthomps at 9:37 AM on September 21, 2016

For me the biggest thing is that a coworker actually says some sort of greeting and smiles in the morning. I have a sorta moody coworker who doesn't bother to take her headphones off before coming into the office, and just sorta glowers in and doesn't greet anyone. We used to share an office and it was awful! I knew it wasn't personal, but it came off as really rude. If she had just said any sort of greeting and smiled somewhat, that would have been more than enough!

That is to say, I think you're doing just fine! I think this is one of those situations where if you're conscious of it, you're already going above and beyond.
posted by radioamy at 10:07 AM on September 21, 2016

Seconding substituting another greeting if Hello makes you uncomfortable. I'm an fan of "'morning", which lets the other person imply the "good" if they want to and is also still pretty short. A wave and/or nod would also be fine.

I feel you on the names. I have such a hard time using people's names. It definitely takes practice. I've had the same small workplace (less than 10 people and mostly the same 10 people) for the last 8 or so years and I really had to work at using them. For the ones I haven't know for the whole time, I still mostly go with "'morning" instead of "'morning [name]." Can you pick a particular coworker to work on at a time? Add a new one once a week or once a month?
posted by carrioncomfort at 10:30 AM on September 21, 2016

Thank you for your replies so far! They are very helpful. I'm from F*ance and my mother tongue is French. Trust me here shaking hands or just waving would be more akward than kissing! Re sign language : thank you for the suggestion but it doesn't make sense to use it when I master my mother tongue.
posted by Ifite at 10:34 AM on September 21, 2016

Yes this sounded European to me and you won't get around the kiss!

Can you do the air-bisoux? Air kiss in the general vicinity.

Also: "ciao" goes over well almost everywhere.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:44 AM on September 21, 2016

I'm also in France and hate the kissing everyone when you walk into the office. Do you have a desk near enough the door that you could rush to it and wave at everyone? Is salut or ciao easier for you to say than bonjour?
posted by ellieBOA at 11:23 AM on September 21, 2016

Having spent some time in France (though not nearly as much) I don't think there's much else you can do beyond confidence.

I didn't love greeting the male members of my French swim team on the pool deck in their speedos and my swim suit with kisses but it would have been FAR more awkward to not say hello or do something else.

I worked in schools, and I don't know if it's too casual for colleagues or not but I'd go with "salut" and confidence in the handshake or kisses.

(If it makes you feel any better, I have no hearing problems and I was telling a French friend how I was surprised that the baker seemed not to hear me when I entered and said "bonjour!" My friend friend then spent about 10 minutes laughing g as I went through all the various intimations and pronunciations possible for "bonjour" while still not managing to land on the correct one.)
posted by raccoon409 at 12:12 PM on September 21, 2016

posted by jeffamaphone at 5:05 PM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like the advice to compliment people, but in a professional setting I would avoid complimenting their clothing or hair- it can cause a lot of other issues like making people feel self-conscious, making them feel objectified, making them feel that they're being valued for the wrong things, making them feel undercut, making others feel weird, maybe even making them feel sexually harassed. I really hate it when coworkers discuss my appearance (even when I know they're doing it admiringly or with good intentions- and I'm a very outgoing person and a somewhat flashy dresser, and I always accept their compliments graciously... So you would think I would like it... but to be honest, I really really don't, and I find that I tend to think less of coworkers who repeatedly do this.) Best to compliment coworkers on their work and avoid anything about their bodies.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:53 AM on September 23, 2016

« Older Club membership management software needed   |   Erasing myself from the narrative Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.