Friday, July 15, 2011

Good to see you, again and again and...

“Good morning, how are you today?”
“I’m fine, and you?”
“I’m well, have a good day.”
“You too.”
Those are pleasantries exchanged billions of times a year as people show up for work.
It is a friendly bit of banter that acknowledges you know the other person, you are happy to see them (or at least you are being cordial if happy is too strong a word) and then it is off to another day in the salt mines.
Depending on the relationship between the greeter and the greetee (if that is a real word), these conversations may be a little longer and touch on a diversity of topics from how was your weekend – typical for a Monday greeting – to how is the wife, kids and/or family pet.
As the day progresses there are often passing encounters with a co-worker, but even on these secondary and even third meetings there is still a need to recognize that the other person is sharing the same time and space on earth as you are.
The verbal greeting has already been done and there is not a whole lot more to say, but still the person is right there and you have to do something.
So what do you do?
You look directly at the person and raise your eyebrows a little. This lets them know you see them, and that you are still at least somewhat approving of their ongoing existence.
The eyebrow raise seems simple enough, but there are a few guidelines one should adhere to.
Do not raise your eyebrows so much as to look like you are shocked, surprised or have some weird ailment that makes your eyes look big, but just enough to acknowledge the other person.
The eyebrow bop, as I call it, is a very common form of secondary greeting among co-workers. The bop can also be accompanied by a slight and brief upward tilt of the head.
It says “Hey, how are ya doing? I see you right there, but really have nothing to say.”
More often than not, the other person will respond with a similar movement of a body part – typically the eyebrows are raised in a return gesture.
If combining the bop and the tilt are too complicated or strenuous, either can be done without the other while still conveying a silent greeting.
The head tilt can be either upward or downward, but typically the downward tilt is reserved for someone you do not know and is simply a way of saying, “Hey, way to be alive stranger.”
Also, when doing the bop, make sure you raise both eyebrows, because if you raise just one, the other person could misinterpret your non-verbal communication.
In some cultures, raising a single eyebrow is considered giving someone the ‘evil eye,’ which is a bad thing.
If you raise just one eyebrow and curl you lip at the same time, they may think you are doing an impromptu Elvis impersonation and will likely believe you to be of an odd nature.
Personally, I do not need the Elvis impersonation for people to think that about me, but that is for another day.
However, if you want to avoid all initial interaction and subsequent greetings there is action you can take.
When the person asks, “How are you doing?” get a little more creative in your answers rather than the typical “I’m fine.”
For example, “How are you doing today?”
“Terrible, this spastic colon is driving me crazy.”
That is pretty much guaranteed to send the conversation into a whole new direction and is often the generator of an awkward silence.
And any conversation with the words “boil” and “puss” in it will likely end sooner rather than later.
You can be pretty sure providing such information will make the person think twice about engaging you in banter – forever.
There is even a good chance you will not have to even worry about the bop or the tilt because that person will avoid you as if you were the drunk uncle at a family reunion.

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