I am a northern girl who has lived in the south for 20 years. Everyone in the south speaks when they make eye contact. Not doing so is perceived as being rude. In the morning, strangers greet each other with “good morning.” Friends and acquaintances say “how you doing,” “how are you,” or “hey.” At the very least, they will wave their hands or nod their heads. People, who are close, greet each other with a hug, a touch of the arm or a handshake. The morning greeting is often followed by conversations to ‘catch up’ on the events of the last 24 hours or 24 days. I suppose we are just happy to see each other.
The most effective form of saying “good morning” includes making eye contact and smiling. Smiles are contagious. It is almost impossible to smile and not have it returned. In the south, you may end up saying “good morning” 20 times walking from your car to your building.
If you have ever ridden public transportation in the north, you know that no one speaks. A rider may speak to the bus driver or the conductor as they pay their fare, but for the most part riders listen to their music, read their newspapers and separate themselves from the masses.
At this time of year, northerners are tired of winter. It is dark when they leave in the morning and dark by the time they get home. The weather is cold, wet, or both. People are grumpy and ready for winter to transition into spring. I don’t know if this is why northerners don’t greet each other when they make eye contact, but I do believe that southerners have it right.
Greeting each other in the morning is more than a genteel form of manners. Speaking to others in the morning has many positive results.
- It connects us with others. This is important because we are social beings who thrive on having positive relationships with other humans.
- It makes us feel good. Feel good hormones are released when another person smiles at us. Our self-esteem is massaged when others acknowledge that we exist.
- It takes our minds off our problems if only for a moment. Making eye contact, smiling and saying “good morning” forces us to focus on something other than what makes us sad, angry or frustrated.
- It is and energizing, positive way to start the day.
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