Why do we do this?
It is almost that season when we send “Greetings” cards to our family and friends and business acquaintances and whoever was left on our mailing list. We send cards to those who sent us cards and we must reply but what do they really mean.
Greeting is an act of communication in which we make our presence known to each other.
Greetings are used just prior to a conversation or to greet in passing. Greetings expressed in both audibly and physically, and often involve a combination of the two. Greetings include military and ceremonial salutes and other cultural gestures. A greeting or salutation can also be letters, cards and emails.
The same word or gesture is used as both greeting and farewell like “Good day” in English, “Aloha” in Hawaiian, “Shalom” in Hebrew, “Namaste” in Hindi and “Ciao” in Italian. The bow and handshake are also used for both greeting and leaving.
A greeting can consist of an exchange of formal expression, kisses, handshakes, hugs, and various gestures. The form of greeting is determined by social etiquette, as well as by the relationship of the people.
A greeting may also include facial expressions, gestures, body language and eye contact. Greeting someone with open arms is a sign that a hug is expected, but crossing arms can be interpreted as a sign of hostility. A frown, slouching and lowered eye contact shows disinterest, while smiling and an exuberant attitude is a sign of welcome.
In Western cultures the handshake is very common, though it has numerous subtle variations in the strength of grip, the vigor of the shake, the dominant position of one hand over the other, and whether or not the left hand is used.
Politeness is our societies’ management of words and actions.
Having manners is a term preceded by the word ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to indicate whether or not a behavior is socially acceptable? Manners, a subset of social norms, are enforced through self-regulation, social policing and publicly acceptable behavior. Manners enable ‘ultra sociality’ by imposing self-restraint and compromise to status quo.
Manners typically demonstrate one’s identity within a specific socio‐cultural group. Adherence to cultural norm manners allows for the demarcation of socio‐cultural identities and the creation of boundaries which inform who is to be trusted or who is to be deemed as ‘other’. Non‐adherence to the cultural norm would result in alienation.
Male greetings to a woman used to include the “tipping” or removing their hat. If a man not wearing a hat, he’d touch his hair to the side of the front of his head to replicate a hat tipping gesture. This gesture was also performed by lower class men to social superiors, such as peasants to the landowner, and is known as “tugging the forelock”, which still sometimes occurs as a metaphor for submissive behavior. Women did not perform this gesture.
The Arabic term salaam (literally “peace”, from the spoken greeting that accompanies the gesture) refers to the practice of placing the right palm on the heart, before and after a handshake.
A Chinese greeting features the right fist placed in the palm of the left hand and both shaken back and forth two or three times, it may be accompanied by a head nod or bow. The gesture may be used on meeting and parting, and when offering thanks or apologies.
In India, it is common to see the Namaste greeting (or “Sat Sri Akal” for Sikhs) where the palms of the hands are pressed together and held near the heart with the head gently bowed.
In Indonesia, a nation with a huge variety of cultures and religions, many greetings are expressed, from the formalized greeting of the highly stratified and hierarchical Javanese to the more egalitarian and practical greetings of outer islands.
Añjali Mudrā, Bowing, Cheek kissing, Eskimo kissing, Fist bump, Hand-kissing, Handshake, Hat raising or tipping, High-five, Hug, Kowtow, Mano (gesture), Namaste, Pranāma, Pressing noses, Salute, Sampeah, Tehniyat, Waving, the gesture of moving one's hand back and forth, Wai are all greetings.
Etiquette became a self-conscious process of the imposition of polite norms and behaviors became a symbol of being a genteel member of the upper class. Upwardly mobile middle class bourgeoisie increasingly tried to identify themselves with the elite through their adopted artistic preferences and their standards of behavior. They became preoccupied with precise rules of etiquette, such as when to show emotion, the art of elegant dress and graceful conversation and how to act courteously, especially with women.
So with all that said, how do you introduce yourself to a stranger? How do you reintroduce yourself to a friend?
Personally, I don’t follow all the acceptable procedures to welcome another. Normally I will just say “Hey”. This allows me the time to try to place a name with the face. It is something I picked up from Carolina and seems friendly without being too formal.
After the handshake turned into fist bumps and high fives and whatever variations are hip, I avoid putting out my hand to press flesh. A wave will do.
I also try to avoid those uncomfortable hugs. Why would I want to hug someone or invite someone into my private space? What about a receiving line? How long would that take if you had to hug everyone? If you get that close do you give the other a peck on the cheek? Best to just stay an arms distance away.
I do respect the idea of announcing my name when approaching someone else as an identity that someone else might remember. Plus it allows someone else to start a conversation with a name. (Note: Not saying it is always my name, but the technique works)
NAILS ON THE BLACKBOARD ALERT!!!!
“How are you?” and “Nice meeting you” are two responses to introductions that are NOTB!!! First, you don’t care how I am. If you did, you would already know. If you didn’t, this is just a waste of air. Second, you don’t know if it is nice meeting me or not. I might have some association with someone else you know or respect, but down deep I could be a horrible person you would not want to leave your daughter with.
Luckily in the age of electronic communication today’s greetings can be a simple emoji (smiley face here).