Have you ever thought about how ironic our salutations are? I mean honestly, I feel as if every phrase we use is so contradictory. Want an example? Okay, here we go.
Let’s start with the basic, “hello”. What odd about this? Oh yes. It has the word “hell” in it. Is this an ominous foreshadowing that the conversation to follow is going to be long and agonizing? We start almost all of our conversations by naming a place of torture? Hm. I like how many Hispanics answer the phone. They say “Bueno.” meaning “Good.” Isn’t that a much more pleasant way to start the conversation? Granted, they started using this phrase to tell the operator that the connection or telephone line was good, but this still gives a much nicer introduction to the conversation.
Another greeting you hear every day is “How are you?” Americans have coined this as polite, I coin it as a lie. I never really thought you could say a lie in sentence form; maybe it’s not a lie, but showing false intentions. How many times a day do you hear “How are you?” and not really care how the person is actually doing? Or you do care, but you don’t really want to know exactly how they’re doing. There are so many times when people just say “How are you?” and no on replies, nor did the person expect a reply. There are other times when the person replies with “good”, because that’s the “right” answer. But what if that’s not how they’re doing? On both sides of the conversation, within the first 5 seconds, people are lying to each other because it’s “courteous”. I feel like we’re de-sensitizing people to the feelings of others. We’re teaching kids to ask how people are doing, but not really care. If you don’t want to know, don’t ask. If you don’t want to say how you’re doing, don’t answer.
Finally, “Goodbye”. I’m sure you can all guess where I’m going with this. In 99% of situations where people are parting ways, “good” would not be the word used to describe the departure. Whether it’s a leaving family after a visit, parting with friends, burying a loved one, a break up, even a mutual break up, this leaving is never “good”.
So I’d like to make a proposal. How about we start greeting each other with what we’d really like to say or impress upon others. For example, to my baby sister when she calls, I’d answer, “Love!” To my professor welcoming me late to class I’d say, “Clocking in” To start a letter to my best friend away at school I’d say, “Miles hurt.” To that annoying friend running up to you in the cafeteria I might say, “Loud!!” Or to the worker at the BMV asking how I’m doing after my 3 hour wait in line, “ticking bomb.” To the telemarketer calling my father for the 8th time today, “stop.” Or while burying the best dog in the entire world I’d say, “Thank you.” To my parents while I drove off to college I’d say, “love and opportunity.”
Whether I’m greeting someone, wondering how they’re doing, or separating from them, I hope I can always find the words to say.
Nothing “courteous”. Just real.