Customarily, the first question people ask in their initial greeting is “How are you?” or “How is your day?” Based on the responses I have heard, the most common way to respond to these questions is to say “good” or “okay.” It appears that we have established a pre-programed response to these greetings. Honestly, the use of the words “good” or “fine” is fitting as a polite response when asked “how are you?” or “how is your day?”
Besides, how many people sincerely wish to hear the full details of your life’s dilemmas? At most, people will ask you how you are doing as they walk by, seldom slowing down to make eye contact. The following list suggests some possible reasons why a person may use the response “good” or “fine,” despite the fact that they are facing hardships in life.
- They do not consider the individual as an acquaintance.
- The greeting lacks sincerity.
- It is poor timing for initiating a conversation
- The current environment lacks privacy.
- He/she just does not trust the person enough to share their privileged information.
- The individual is an introvert.
- At that moment, things are going good or fine.
Up to this point, we have briefly considered the mentality of the individual who is being addressed. In some aspects, you may develop some skepticism regarding the benefits of the greeting process other than its primary use as a form of courtesy. So, let’s look at the significance of greeting someone as well as the long-term impact it could have on a person’s life.
According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, nearly 43,000 Americans die by suicide every year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. I referenced this information with the intention of bringing awareness to the behavior and emotions of those around us. Love, anger, happiness, and hurt represent a small portion of the emotional adventure with which we all engage daily. For instance, how do you feel when you get out of bed? Are you happy to start your day or are you frustrated about going to a job for which you have no passion? On your drive to work, did you yell or make an inappropriate gesture towards another vehicle? Maybe you just walked into the office and somebody immediately started a complaint session or they have requested you to complete a five-hour project in one hour. The questions above are meant to demonstrate how frequently our emotions can change in a brief period of time.
Interacting with people on a continuous basis can help you understand their emotional behavior. For example, if you greet a co-worker every day for a month, eventually you will begin to recognize behavioral patterns that indicate he/she may be facing a personal crisis. Here are a few techniques I use for greeting individuals with whom I interact frequently.
In my initial greeting, I always make eye contact as a way of visibly acknowledging their presence. Additionally, asking a person questions about themselves allows me to notice the fluctuations or hesitations in their voice. Other signs I watch for are watery eyes regarding certain conversational topics, quick changing of the subject regarding certain issues, changes in facial expressions, and physical signs of discomfort in the body (limping, bruises, or the favoring of one part of the body). Handshakes and hugs are another way of determining if a person’s feelings are changing. For men, a firm handshake is a sign of respect, but a loose handshake with a quick pull away could indicate some distrust or a dislike for the person.
On the other hand, behavioral changes lets one know that something has changed about the person’s feelings – take, for instance, two individuals who always shake hands when they greet each other, but suddenly, one of them simply waves and keeps walking, offers the other a smirk instead of a smile, or distances themselves from the other.
Greetings are best described as a polite word or sign of welcome or recognition. Sharing a friendly smile with a small compliment may cause someone to have a more positive outlook on their day. This is not to say that everyone will return the same courtesy to you, but at least you have made the endeavor to brighten the lives of others.
Social media is another platform that tells you quite a bit about a person’s emotional status. Two years ago, I lost both my jobs; my three-month-old son passed away, my girlfriend and I broke up, and my bank account was in the negative. Despite my desire and need to be comforted, there was loneliness, bitterness, and despair in my heart. Before these events, I remember watching the movie Lord of the Rings and hearing Théoden say “No father should ever have to bury his son.” I had not foreseen that these words would ever be spoken by me over my son’s grave. It was in my arms that I watched him breathe his last as I could do nothing but helplessly wait for emergency response units to arrive. In the presence of others, I displayed a mask of strength and hope, but in the solitude of the night when it was just me and my thoughts, the cover meant nothing.
On my Facebook page, I changed my profile picture from me eating and smiling to a photo of a male lion who was beaten and dying from a fight. The response I received from my friends on Facebook were comments about it being a great profile pic and a bunch of likes. For me, this was a representation of my life, it was my fate to come. I also uploaded videos of the Undertaker (WWE), but only the clips of him being buried or defeated. The cry from me was not direct, but even those who knew me personally failed to recognize the signs. Throughout my life, I have been given the nickname “Smiley” and am mostly known as the happy, easy-going guy. I became distant and everything I posted on social media had a dark undertone.
My hope was not restored by family or friends, but by a video that was played on my cell phone. I remember something telling me that that day was going to be the day; I drove to a parking lot and just sat in my car with my eyes filled with tears. On my phone was a playlist of mainly sad songs I had found on YouTube. I pushed my seat back and pushed play on the playlist. As I lay back and closed my eyes, all I could hear was T.D Jakes’ voice. Truthfully, my first thought was “I don’t want to listen to this mess,” but I couldn’t find the will to cut it off. This eight-minute message held me captive in thought long enough for another video from T.D Jakes called “Encourage Yourself” to begin playing. There was something about these videos, which I had no intention of playing, that revitalized my hope in life.
When all is said and done, we may not ever fully understand why things happen in our life or in the lives of others. We live in a world filled with terror, suffering, and stress. Yet if you take a moment to look around, you really will find that there is some good in this world. The smallest act of kindness can ignite a towering flame of hope and encouragement. Are you willing to engage in the act of kindness today? Greet those you care about with a smile and offer a compliment; no matter how insignificant it may seem to you, to someone else it could be a life-changing moment.
My intention is to make people aware of those who need encouragement while remaining observant and willing to offer someone a shoulder to lean on. I would not expect you to assume the role of the neighborhood psychologist for everyone you meet.
Technology remains an influential part of our daily lives. Almost everyone has a cell phone, tablet or computer. These devices allow you to send motivational videos, emails, text messages or inspirational songs to people you feel need encouragement.
You can begin performing acts of kindness today. Select one or more persons and send them a message of encouragement or a compliment. After all, you just may save a life!