how to greet people

Greeting Etiquette: 7 Rules For Greeting People

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Who is this micro-class for

* Everyone

What you’ll learn

* How to greet someone when meeting in person

Resources

* Less than 5 minutes to complete

About this micro-class

Greeting etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately greet someone when you meet in person.

1. Consider the context

The way you greet someone can depend on the context. In formal settings, like a business meeting or a job interview, a more formal greeting is often appropriate. In informal or social settings, a casual greeting may be more fitting.

Adapt to cultural differences. When greeting someone from a different culture, take the time to learn about their customs and etiquette. What is considered polite in one culture might be considered rude in another.

Greeting etiquette at a social event

At any private social event, such as a party at someone else’s house, you should greet everybody. Start with the hosts, then greet all the guests as you meet them. When new people arrive, it is polite to go toward them and greet them.

Greeting etiquette at work​

At work, always greet customers as soon as you meet them, or as they enter the room or venue.

Properly greet your manager and coworkers when you meet them for the first time in the day. When you meet them again during the day, a simple gesture such as a smile is enough. When you enter a meeting room, always greet everyone in the room.

2. Adapt the greeting to the person

Adapt the greeting to the person. For instance, it is appropriate to use informal greetings with younger persons and formal greetings with seniors.

Adapt to cultural differences

When greeting someone from a different culture, take the time to learn about their customs and etiquette. What is considered polite in one culture might be considered rude in another.

Be sensitive

Be sensitive to the other person’s cues. If they seem reserved or not interested in physical contact, respect their boundaries.

 

Avoid overfamiliarity

In initial encounters, it is generally best to err on the side of formality. Overly familiar greetings, especially with strangers, can be off-putting.

3. Use the correct forms

Verbal greetings

Along with a physical gesture, it is customary to offer a verbal greeting. Common greetings include informal “Hello,” “Hi,” “Hey,” or more formal “How do you do?”, “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” and “Good evening.” Use appropriate greetings based on the time of day.

Titles and honorifics

In formal settings, it is often appropriate to use titles and honorifics, like “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Dr.,” unless you are on a first-name basis.

Use of first or last name

If you know the person’s name, it is polite to use it in your greeting. For example, “Hello, John,” shows respect and personalizes the interaction.

 

Appropriate tone and language

When greeting someone, use a neutral tone of voice. Speak softly and not in a loud voice and use appropriate language.

Handshakes

Handshakes are a common way to greet people in many Western cultures. A firm but not too strong handshake is generally a safe bet. 

However, be mindful of cultural differences. In some cultures, a softer handshake or no physical contact at all is preferred.

4. Body language

Eye contact

When greeting someone, maintain eye contact to show that you are engaged and attentive.

 

Smile

 

A friendly smile can go a long way in making your greeting warm and welcoming.

 

Posture

Stand or sit up straight, and avoid slouching or crossing your arms, as these can be seen as signs for a lack of interest or respect.

Respect personal space

Be aware of personal space boundaries. Do not get too close to someone unless you have a close relationship or are in a culture where personal space is minimal.

5. Always greet others

Greeting people shows that we acknowledge their presence and that we consider them worthy of our attention. Not greet someone is often interpreted as a lack of respect. 

Greet everyone when you enter a room

When you enter a room, greet the people that are already in it. A single greeting to greet everyone such as “Good morning” is usually enough.

Acknowledge new arrivals

When someone enters a room or a space you are in, you should greet them. Even a minimal gesture is appropriate, such as a nod or a smile. On some occasions, such as in a restaurant, you can also greet someone by standing as a way of showing respect. 

If you are doing something else, such as talking on your phone, stop for a second to greet the new arrivals.

6. Always respond appropriately to greetings

When someone greets you, respond in kind. If they offer a handshake or a greeting, reciprocate with a similar gesture or words. It is perfect etiquette to mirror their greeting in tone, style, and language. Not returning a greeting is very rude.

7. Do not get upset if someone does not greet you

If someone does not greet you, or does not greet you back, do not get upset. They may be unaware of etiquette or distracted. Do not to overthink it or hold a grudge.

Greeting etiquette mistakes to avoid

Avoid the worst etiquette mistakes when greeting people:

  • Not greeting someone.
  • Not greeting back.
  • Using the inappropriate forms.

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