Tag Archive | greeting

The difference between being friendly and being familiar

                One of the guidelines of behavior I attempt to maintain is a working application of the difference between being friendly and being familiar (or being friends).  On the surface it sounds complicated, but I have found that doing so has helped me to become more professional in the process of everyday transactions.  This is important to me because although you may always be familiar with those close to you, you needn’t be familiar with just anyone, such as grocery cashiers, salesman, and people who queue with you.  However, you can always be friendly no matter what;  the key is to know how far to go without crossing the boundary of acting like friends when you are really just strangers or acquaintances. 

                With my family and friends, I already know what the boundaries and comfort levels are of the various relationships.  Therefore, the purpose of this post is to give my basic guidelines for being friendly to those not close to me without my being familiar.  The first thing I do is make a pleasant face upon making eye contact with any person.  Not only does this put my best face forward and enhance my image, it is also courteous to others who did nothing to deserve a scowl or glare.  I don’t necessarily initiate a smile at everyone, depending on the feeling I get at the moment.  The reason is that I don’t want to appear too glib or naive or to be encouraging unwanted attention.  I also don’t think it’s realistic to walk around with a 24/7 pasted on smile, and when I try that, it looks fake.  I do try to return all smiles I’m given.  The technicalities of facial expressions vary amongst us all, and I don’t expect anyone to follow my preferences exactly.  This is just the way that has been right for me.

                The second way I distinguish between friendliness and familiarity is in greeting.  I am not the type that waves for no reason at strangers while driving.  I wave to thank and that’s it.  I have lived in areas where waving at every random pickup truck that passed on the dirt road was the thing to do, and I don’t think it’s wrong. It’s just a level of familiarity with strangers that I don’t feel obligated to maintain.  I don’t greet people in person for no reason.  I don’t go up to random cute children, polished women, or handsome men and gush all over them.  I feel like they didn’t come to the gift shop or the cafe to be greeted by me, another customer.  You can tell by my tone that nothing like that has ever happened to me and my family before.  🙂  I always try to return a greeting when spoken to me–that’s basic courtesy.  I always greet (and try to be the first to greet) people I have chosen to interact with, such as those I am on hand to do business with, or someone whose assistance I need.  I try not to start any conversation with someone without an appropriate greeting first (such as, “Excuse me, ma’am, could you tell me where the peanut butter is?” instead of “Where is the peanut butter? “).

                Besides greeting, interactions with strangers also involve addressing them.  My preference here is for “ma’am” and “sir” for anyone who looks above 18 or so.  I cannot abide being referred to as “miss,” “miz,” “hun,” “sweetheart,” “mom,” or “hey you” and thus do not call others by these epitaphs.   Again, your mileage may vary, but I feel the pitfall of familiarity is avoided completely by using the formal “ma’am” and “sir.” 

                After greeting and addressing someone a conversation usually follows.  Sometimes the conversation is crucial to the interaction, such as discussing options for a major household purchase, and other times it occurs to pass the time, such as while the groceries are scanned.  This is the time that many people, mostly inadvertently I’m sure, cross the boundary between being friendly and being familiar.  I never feel obligated to share personal information such as names, ages, school enrollment, addresses, occupations, etc.  This is my preference;  I’m not paranoid that the person interrogating my children on their school’s name and grade level is going to stalk them.  I just think that as a whole society needs to go back to minding its own business, and the details of my life simply do not have to be shared with anyone who pleases.  Last Friday night, I made a late grocery run and encountered a chatty cashier at the evening’s end.  He asked me if I had any plans for the weekend.  I replied that I have plans most days.  He said, “Aren’t you going to tell me what they are?”  I replied that no, I don’t share personal details with grocery cashiers;  I prefer that they just do their job and that they not attempt to make friends with me.

                This is probably sounding really cold going up on the internet.  But I really would be happy if customers and service providers alike would just focus on accomplishing their intended purpose without adding unnecessary familiarity to the process.  The way my personality is (woman? introvert? who knows), any sort of personal interaction requires an emotional effort from me, and I prefer to reserve that effort for my actual friends and people I care about.  I also easily get flustered so keeping things professional definitely makes life easier for me.  And even though I think being friendly is a good idea, I would rather someone be a bit gruff and taciturn than that they go on and on grilling me about my life.  I’m just trying to buy the food, people!

Greetings and interpersonal skills

                Suppose a male acquaintance you are not close to summons you loudly across a room and stretches his arms wide for a hug.   What should you do?   In order not to embarrass him needlessly, I would give a brief sideways hug and wrap up the interaction as quickly as possible.   However, in a relationship it is best to wait until both parties are comfortable enough with each other to engage in hugging;   when in doubt, ask.   It is inconsiderate to maintain a one sided view that “I am just a hugger, so if I want to I will hug people.”   If you do not know for sure, stick to an arm or shoulder pat or a handsqueeze (more intimate than a handshake, but not as invading as a hug).   Remember, the epitome of being well mannered is to seamlessly move through life leaving everyone feeling as pleasant as possible under the circumstances while portraying your best character.

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                Someone pressures you to become an ambassador for her particular MLM (multilevel management) company.   You are not interested, but she keeps asking.   You do not want to give detailed reasons for your refusal, nor should you have to.   If she asks again, decline politely but make it clear that you are not refusing out of ignorance or a wish to be convinced.   Over this past week I dealt with such a situation by letting my friend know that I had thoroughly researched the company and concluded that the types of products they sell are just not for me in terms of using or selling.   Though I have great reservations not only about MLMs in general but particularly the product my friend was peddling, I did not list any specific reasons because many MLM salespeople have been trained to combat such statements and I did not wish to debate.   (Something I have slowly been realizing over the past few years is that the goal is not to walk away from every encounter leaving the other person in full ownership of my personal opinion.   The well bred woman pursues the life best suited to her goals and style without trying to change others forcibly.)   The bitter pill at the bottom of the sweet glass of the “Join my MLM as my ambassador” rhetoric is that the person who draws you into the company makes money off every sale you make.   That is, in part, what fuels their persistence but knowing this can help a person look objectively at the situation when deciding.   With MLMs taking the States by storm, I know by past experience that it is easy to get in and hard to get out, and the more money you put into it the worse you feel about quitting.   So unless that type of sales experience and those particular business ethics suit you, and it does work for many people, declining an MLM invitation is something that needs to be done politely but firmly and preferably as soon as possible.

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                A stranger randomly starts talking to your child, beyond a mere hello.   Expecting a cute reaction or a response, they just keep talking to your child even though you as a parent can tell the child is uncomfortable (compounded in children who have been taught not to talk to strangers).   What do you do?   Usually I gently pull the child to my side (to make him feel safe) and while keeping a hand on the child explain, “We teach our children not to talk to strangers.”   That might sound cold but every time I have said it, no one has become visibly upset;   usually they either apologize or laugh and agree that it is a good policy.   Even now I remember incidences as a child where I had to deal with unwanted attention from a strange adult and I still remember how empty and scared I felt not to have a trusted adult step up and say something to make them stop bothering me.   Yes, children need to learn communication skills, but these are best learned within the safety of the family, friends and community acquaintances that the parents place in their child’s life.   The only thing that a child should have to say to a stranger asking them things like where they go to school and what their favorite color is “None of your business.”   There are far too many bad people in the world nowadays for parents to have to endure a stranger interrogating their child.   For me, if I see a child staring at me I sometimes smile or make eye contact but that is all.   I usually just let them stare and go about my business;   it is child’s job to observe adults and learn from them, and it is a bit presumptuous for me to take a child’s notice as an invitation to go and speak to them.   If anything needs to be said to or about the child, the proper channel is to address her parent or caregiver.

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                Speaking of addressing others properly, when meeting and greeting at a function, if a person you know is present with their spouse or another guest, remember to address both your friend or acquaintance and their spouse or guest.   After making eye contact and hand shaking the person who is known, you should briefly turn to their partner and at least smile.   That gives your friend an opportunity to make introductions, and it is the least a person can do to acknowledge everyone within the same space.   I am flabbergasted by how many times an acquaintance of my husband has addressed him, yet never even made eye contact with me as I stood right next to him!   Another thing to remember is not to assume that you know who the other person is or how they are related;   if I had voiced my assumption a few months back, I would have referred to my church pianist’s daughter as his wife!

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                And on that note, less said is better.   Countless needless things, sometimes hurtful but often simply unnecessary, have been said because too much was said.   Less said is always better and you do not have to take back what was not said.   Smiling at and making eye contact with those around you is a good way to stay on top of your surroundings while learning more about the situation through observation and listening.   One need not begin every interaction with her tongue.   This is wisdom that I hope to find.

The golden rules of a well-bred woman

               Much of the responsibility of a woman to act in a becoming, well-bred, proper manner involves knowing how to respond accordingly in each situation. One often must use wisdom and discernment, cultivated over the years, to determine one’s course of action in any given situation. However, there are some golden rules which apply no matter what, and it would behoove every woman on a journey to become more refined to begin observing these as soon as possible. So simple that they may seem clichéd, here are some rules a well-bred woman must always follow:

               Always smile graciously and sincerely when meeting or greeting people, whether new or old. Knowing someone well and having greeted them dozens of times does not relieve a woman of her responsibility to respect someone by acknowledging their presence and affirming their existence. For example, when her husband returns from work at the end of each day, a proper wife will always greet him as soon as possible.

               Always offer your hand when being introduced or accept the hand that is offered to you. Proper manners dictate that a woman offer her hand to a man while letting an older woman offer her hand first. Not offering one’s hand upon introduction is careless and rude, and it may force a man to offer his hand first, thereby breaking a rule of etiquette himself. Many people enjoy shaking hands every time they greet someone, long after having been introduced. Again, if she is able, a woman ought to offer her hand first to a man. Some men will, however, walk up to you speaking with a hand already outstretched; of course, a well-bred woman will accept it even though the order was reversed. It would be rude not to, and being rude to force others to observe rules of etiquette is counter-productive and silly.

               Always smile sincerely and say “thank you” to a compliment; that is all. A well-bred woman will never explain anything, argue with the one complimenting, talk back, or put herself or anyone else down. If the compliment is regarding something she owns or has made, rather than regarding her person directly, she will not tell them where she acquired it, offer to hand it down once she is done using it, or explain anything in detail unless asked. Often the other person will be interested in this information, but it is best to let him ask instead of volunteering it. A simple “thank-you,” nothing more, is always the best response; by responding to a compliment in this way one has performed the ultimately well-bred response, simple though it is.

               Always answer when someone addresses you, no matter how silly, trivial, or even rude he is being. You do not need to go back and forth or banter with someone, but a polite, concise reply stated appropriately is a must. It is rude to do otherwise. Being so self-absorbed as to not notice others speaking to you is not appropriate either. Even if someone rudely speaks to you from behind your back, without saying your name or meeting your eye first, if you know they are speaking to you it is polite to reply. As I often say, much of today’s etiquette involves not only how to avoid rudeness on one’s own part, but also how to respond to the rudeness of others.

               Dear readers, are there any golden rules that you think a well-bred woman should observe? I would love to hear your thoughts!