It shouldn’t be, but “hello” seems to be one of the most difficult words to say to one another these days.
Yes, masks have made it harder to communicate in all aspects – still, I’m finding more and more that one simple little greeting to a stranger or a neighbour is falling out of fashion.
Canadians are funny when it comes to presence; we’re somewhat of a timid, shy, and overtly polite bunch – but the way we greet one another also seems to change from region to region.
The last time I went home to small-town southern Alberta, I noticed the strong, confident “hellos” booming back and forth from people passing each other on the street or in a park.
This was the way I was brought up and had grown accustom to – it was nice to be back.
Coming from this environment and then moving to downtown Vancouver, I soon discovered it was not a good idea to vocalize anything to anybody I passed.
Vancouverites became offended, either figuring I must have been hitting on them or attempting to rob them… I’m really not sure which one as I was greeted with the same look of sheer terror every time.
In Newfoundland, you don’t dare say hello to someone because you’ll be on the street having a conversation for hours on end.
In the Terriories, the land is so sparse, you got for hours without seeing a soul; you find yourself saying “hello” to moose instead.
In Quebec, you will get yelled at or you will get silence.
In Toronto, it’s a competition to see who can speak the loudest.
In Langley, I have discovered what we have here is something I like to call “the soft hello.”
People in these parts seem to feel obligated to say something.
There’s enough small-town friendly neighbour attitude that prompts a reaction, but there’s some mixture of big city or perhaps a shyness that sends it off kilter.
I’ve noticed it’s mostly older folks who keep their eye contact, and say a pronounced and audible greeting, too.
Younger people – even if their eyes are peeled away from screens – tend to look down and mumble a response.
I think virtual communication has done that to us. I mean, I do know far too many Millennials who are petrified to make an actual, physical phone call.
But in Langley, I’ve found that people say “hello” in the softest volume available; so quiet, it hardly registers.
God forbid you shorten the greeting from “hello” to “hi,” because at such softly uttered volumes, that just comes across as a nervous whimper.
Then there’s even “the silent hello.”
I’ve been guilty of this one – where two people make eye contact but speak at such a hesitant volume, no noise comes out. They just end up mouthing words to each other.
The simple, slight male head nod it a whole other story.
With masks, the silent hello, the quiet hello, and even a respectable hello have fallen by the wayside. They have blocked that opportunity – as have the distances we all must all keep.
Do we keep to ourselves out of the risk of making people uncomfortable?
Are phrases like “top of the mornin’ to ya” too over the top these days?
Should we lift our hats or curtsy? Well, my gut tells me yes on that one, but I doubt most will be on board.
Ultimately, a simple acknowledgement or brief communication can make a day for someone feeling lonely or going through a tough time.
Let’s get over our fears, speak over our masks, and take a risk.
Let’s do the unthinkable and proudly say “hello.”
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