I brought a family member over to my house. One of my roommates was home and my relative smiled at him, said hi and waved. He just stood there and stared without waving back. He definitely saw and heard him. It would make me feel better knowing why he didn't say hi back. How can I ask this without sounding confrontational? I know some people can be shy but not even waving back is a bit much.

The roommate is in his 20s and belongs to Filipino. His English is fine. FWIW all Filipino people I've met have been very friendly and good in social situations so I doubt it's a cultural thing.


3 Answers 3


How to politely ask someone why they didn't say hi back?

You could simply ask what they thought of your relative. You could then go on to explain they are very friendly, and like interacting with others, so you wondered if this came across in the wrong way.

In some cultures you can only talk to people older than yourself if they initiate a conversation.

Talking about family will bring out any issues that may be under the surface.

The issue here is to identify the reason why the friend did not respond as expected. Rather than opening the conversation with talking about the interaction, which is a behaviour rules approach and often comes across as judgemental, one can approach the subject on cause and effect. The cause of the behaviour could be a miss-understanding of the individual, so starting with how they came across is a neutral enquiry which can be handled sensitively depending on the response.


This happened to me once not too long ago - except I was the person who didn't say hi back. In my case, I noticed that the person said hi, but I was really engrossed in a scheduling issue. It didn't register until the person was gone that they had said hi to me.

Unfortunately, it resulted in a bit of a stress in our relationship, as the next time, they acted a bit distant. Fortunately, I was able to resolve that by apologizing for what had happened and explaining myself.

The point of what I'm saying here is you have to distinguish between behaviour and intention. There are a thousand reasons why they could have done this once. If it's a regular occurrence, then you can start asking questions. At that point, I'd recommend broaching the subject casually, something like:

Say, it seems you're a bit distant from my [family relation]. Any particular reason?

I'd like to emphasize, though, if this has only happened once or twice, let it blow over. You don't know what his reasons are, and it will likely simply produce stress to broach the subject, as it could very easily come across as defensiveness of your family member.


Sometimes people are absent minded, or in deep thought about something, and don't take notice of what is going on around them. You say "he definitely saw and heard him", but did it register in his brain? Maybe not. Not getting an answer when you say "hi" is nothing particular unusual. It happens.

How can you ask without being confrontational? You can't really. Telling your roommate that he acted in a way that you don't like is confrontational. It may be justified, but it is confrontational. If you want to know what's going on, you can ask a non-confrontational question like "So what did you think of my (family member)?"

If the roommate was in deep thought, they might say "What (family member)?" Then you've got your answer, totally non-confrontational. Otherwise, the answer might tell you why "hi" wasnt said. Your family member might have done something that your roommate instantly disliked. They might have worn a t-shirt with some writing that instantly annoyed your roommate.

  • 1
    I suggest you browse the OP's other questions. See if you can spot the pattern.
    – user6005
    Apr 29, 2018 at 1:05

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