Hello is just the start

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A standard greeting, maybe, but “hello” is a great, and simple way to start human interaction. There are, of course, multiple variations: “morning, ladies”, “afternoon, lads”, “evening, officer”.

The comment may generate just a “hello” response, or minimal eye contact, maybe just a blank look, but It’s an open invitation to engage with you. Initially, it may elicit a reciprocal nod or smile, but can potentially build into a conversation.

I’ve had more people engage with me, that not, through that open invitation. More so when out with Maxx, my dog. He’s a great magnet for conversation, even if it is only a brief one. He’s an easy topic to begin a chat with a stranger. He’s got boundless energy and wants to make friends with everyone he meets.

And that’s the key. Making it easy to start talking.

Eye contact, a smile, and that verbal cue (“hello”) all send out a message that it’s okay to talk. Of course, it is just an invitation. There’s a slight chance that you get blanked, but I reckon the risk of rejection is far outweighed by the likelihood of acceptance.

Even if you only get the most minimal of reactions, it’s worthwhile. Both parties will be in a positive mood, for at least the duration of the interaction.

Any conversation may be no more than small talk about the weather, or how cute Maxx looks. But all meaningful relationships start with small talk, something that is often undervalued.

My first proper job after leaving school was truly horrible. Not the work, but the workplace. It was ruled over by a tyrant who rejected any notion of “chatting” among the workforce (among a host of other horrible attributes). It made for a very unpleasant environment.

But it taught me one thing: people are important, and building trust, goodwill and a healthy relationship begins, and is maintained, through small talk.

Every day I arrive at work, I greet my colleagues individually. At the end of the day’s work I say goodbye, with an added bonus on a Friday of also wishing them a good weekend.

Small gestures you may think, but I believe they are a big enough deal to invest in. It’s the cement that holds a relationship together, overtly showing a willingness to find out more about each other. It’s one of the main things I missed most when off work for three months due to ill-health. Life’s a lonely place without small talk.

And small talk starts with “hello”, the simple, yet powerful first step to tackling loneliness. Try using it more often.

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