Be the first to say hello

helloI recently discovered something about myself that was dismaying. It’s such a simple thing but I realized my actions were not portraying my best self.

The other day, I attended a panel presentation of three CEOs talking about diversity in the workplace. I thought the event started at 7:00 when in actuality it started at 7:30. So I was there plenty early. I decided to get some tea and as I approached the beverage area I noticed another person. I didn’t say hello, but he did and I responded with a greeting and said no more. After sitting down I wondered if he was one of the speakers.

It turns out he was one of the CEO panelists and I was sorry I had missed an opportunity to have a relaxed conversation with him before the event started. And, I felt ashamed I was not the first to greet him. What made me especially aware of my gaff was he was African American and I was attending a presentation on the importance of diversity. Way to make a good impression I thought to myself. It was then and there I resolved to always be the first to acknowledge others with a friendly hello, whether that’s at a networking event, strolling past a neighbor, passing a store clerk, you name it.

Soon after making my resolution I discovered how often I was not the first to greet others. I missed several opportunities to say hello to neighbors, people in my exercise classes and members at the organization I belong to.  I’m now repeating the mantra, “be the first to say hello” whenever I’m out and about. The few times I have greeted others first I’ve noticed how nice it feels. People light up when I say hello and that makes me happy.

Does it really matter who says hello first? I believe it does. When you greet others first you are seen as a friendly, confident person. That’s impressive. Most importantly, acknowledging others is a kind gesture. We all want to be seen, and when someone takes the time to step out of their bubble to say hello it creates a moment of shared humanity. We’re all in this world together.

And, for those of you In the hospitality and retail industry, it’s crucial you acknowledge guests and shoppers first. You need to treat them as if you are welcoming them into your home.

Are you a person who says hello to others first or do you wait for people to acknowledge you before responding? If you tend to hold back I encourage you to be the first to greet others and see if it changes how you feel about yourself and how others react to you. I think you’ll discover your actions lead to more connections with people.  And that’s always positive.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Carole on October 25, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Great post. Love the mantra and will also adopt.

  2. Arden on October 29, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Thanks Carole. I’ve noticed it has really made a difference in my encounters with people.

  3. Barb Hunsinger on October 30, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    I’m dittoing Carole’s post. It is important to be kind and this is such an easy way to do it! Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

  4. Arina on January 4, 2024 at 6:45 pm

    The post is very helpful, I realized most of the time I want to be involved in discussions, but always waiting for someone speaking to me first. Being proactive in opening a dialogue definitely opens many new opportunities for richer conversations…

  5. Arden on January 5, 2024 at 6:15 pm

    Very true. Wishing you the best with your conversations.

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