I have a fairly basic question for you. How do you enter a room? Yes, I bet I can guess your method of arrival as you typically walk into a new room. When late, maybe we do a speed-walk pace, so I guess my question is more so, how do you arrive to a new space, or how do you make your presence known?
As a teacher of high school seniors, this year, I finally decided to actively work on one of my rather simply annoyances as an instructor. For years I’ve noticed a tendency that students simply enter the room and sit down without saying hello. While I have other concerns regarding the youth of America; I do feel this is a fairly easy problem to fix. Here it is: each period of the day I have students enter and exit the learning space and rarely do kids say hello. That’s it. I want them to say hi. It is most awkward when they are the first one in the room with me and they still do not say hello. Interestingly, they typically all say goodbye or thank you as they exit the room. Yes, I hear thank you from my students every single day, so I’ve always wondered why they don’t offer a greeting. Yes, I sense this was typical teenage behavior and, no, I did not take it personally. But I knew they could do better.
While I didn’t necessarily want to cultivate Walmart greeters, I did want students to practice a warm and consistent greeting to let others know they are present. So after the second week or so, I suggested that for the next week students make an effort to consistently say, ‘hello’ when they enter the classroom. Tied into our Economics/Business related curriculum, and the importance of making good impressions, I asked teenagers to engage with others as they enter the classroom.
The week after my request for hellos, students remembered and made a big deal of it. I heard loud, energetic, sometimes aggressive, ‘hello, Ms. Albrecht!’ throughout my day and I LOVED it. I loved it because when they said hello I could hear each student’s voice. I loved it because they made their presence known. I loved it because they brought energy and excitement with their greeting. I loved it because attendance was easier to take when I’d received greetings from every kid. I also loved it because they weren’t just sliding into their seat, hoping I didn’t see them that day. Their presence and contributions in class matter starting with the way they walk in the room prepared to learn.
Naturally, as time went on this year, I noticed some kids stopped saying hello every day. I knew that would happen, but the kids that continued to say hello were the ones that surprised me. Several of my more introverted students kept up the process. Many days I greet my students at the door and one by one they always say hello, I look at their faces and see when they are tired, worried, gleeful or even sometimes see that they are silly tired. This provides me with information regarding how they feel on that particular day and shows me what mood they are bringing to the room.
At one point I asked students if they do this in other classes or settings. One student mentioned he thought about saying hello regularly during his college tours and felt more comfortable when he walked into new settings. Another mentioned practicing this more regularly when boarding a plane and that it seemed to make a difference. Other students said the practice helped them when they made their business pitch to community members for their Shark Tank project.
So back to my first question… how do you enter a room? More importantly, how do you want to enter a room and are you successfully doing that? I am aware of how I am greeted and I bet others notice it too. I’ve left stores quickly if a store clerk fails to say hello within a few minutes of me entering their store. Conversely, I love the energy at an Apple store or when I went to M&M’s World in NYC and they clapped for the first customers of the day. In the end, I believe that good energy breeds good energy and it may just start with a genuine hello.
My advice to you is what I told my students, try the hello game for the next week. When you greet a potential client, see a worker at the grocery store, go on a blind date, when you enter the gym, or order your next coffee try to say hello first. One week will give you enough data and experiences to make your own judgement of why this simply word means quite a bit in personal exchanges. In other words, next time you enter a room, follow the inspiration title of Adele and Lionel Richie’s top hits. Say “hello, it’s me!” as it probably is and was you that they are looking for!