4

I try to say what I mean, and mean what I say.

Sometimes I just want to say "Hi" or "Hello" without asking the person how they are going. I like to ask how they are or how they are going only when I am genuinely interested in hearing the response.

The thing is, if I just say "Hi", it can seem curt, or awkward, almost as if the expected greeting was "Hi, how are you?" or just "How're you going?"

How do I politely say hello without asking somebody how they are?

There are three cases:

  1. When I want to be polite and acknowledge someone's existence without engaging in a conversation.

  2. When I intentend to interact but have no intention of asking the person how they are in the current interaction (eg avoiding asking a person who is a chronic complainer)

  3. When I want to ask them how they are later on, perhaps when we are seated, in a quiet space with less distractions.

I live in a community of international travellers and expatriates.

  • Do you intend to start a conversation after greeting them or just saying hi and be done with it ? – Dastardly May 4 '18 at 10:37
  • This is very dependent on the country/culture you're in. Please add that to your question. – user10085 May 4 '18 at 11:05
  • @Loki thanks - I've added in the various cases that this applies to. – Tom Hale May 4 '18 at 11:22
6

I understand the subtlety of the problem here. Yes, it is okay to just say hello, but there is often a cultural expectation of something more. With that in mind here are some more possibilities:

Hello! That hat (jacket, tie, blouse) looks great on you! (I feel like saying something like this with a certain enthusiasm could help). Any type of compliment could a) help avoid the How are you? and b) serve the important social function of being polite, engaging, etc.

Or

Hey, good to see you.

And then you could add something like:

It would be great to catch up a little later (but right now I am headed to . . .)

As mentioned in another answer, nonverbal communication is key, so how you position yourself as you say something like this, and/or immediately after will "seal the deal." Keep moving in the direction you were headed, and avoid planting your feet and squaring your shoulders to the person.

Of course, this might all still be taken as negative or disconfirming by the other person, so I would use your judgement. Sometimes doing the conventional and expected thing is what is best for a specific situation or purpose. But I get the sense you are already aware of that.

3

There is nothing wrong with a simple hello, but you can always turn what would normally be a question into a statement.

Hello, I hope you are doing well!

Body language is very important too, if you don't plan to have a long conversation with someone, don't hang around. Say hello, make eye contact, give them a smile but be decisive and continue with what you were doing. People often get offended/confused when you act indecisive, it makes them overthink the situation.

EDIT

Remember you can still be polite while being honest. Most people will appreciate honesty, if you want to catch up with someone later, simply tell them. Like I said earlier give them a smile and some eye contact, it shows you're genuine.

In terms of changing the conversation when talking to a chronic complainer, try putting an optimistic spin on it. Affirmation of their complaints will only make them complain more, being optimistic is a nice positive way to make them realise you're not interested. Or rather, you don't have time for that kind of behaviour.

  • Thanks! I've updated the question based on the comments I received. Would you like to take a look? – Tom Hale May 4 '18 at 11:23
1

Short answer:

Good day to you.

That should be enough to get the message across and is considered to be polite.

Long(er) answer:

1. When I want to be polite and acknowledge someone's existence without engaging in a conversation.

While serving as a initiation of conversation this also implies your benevolence and is rather simple and straightforward.

2. When I intentend to interact but have no intention of asking the person how they are in the current interaction (eg avoiding asking a person who is a chronic complainer)

Adding a second sentence to show your intention of interacting. Here it depends on who is initiating the conversation. If someone comes to you:

Customer: comes into your office

You: "Good day to you. Let's have a seat and talk about the ninja-report."

or

You: "Good day to you. How may I help?"

On the other hand if you start the conversation:

You: enters the local ninja-school

"Good day to you. Do you have a moment to talk about my recent ninja-report? I was wondering whether..."

3. When I want to ask them how they are later on, perhaps when we are seated, in a quiet space with less distractions.

As this is an extension of 2. you can easily just extend the quote as well:

Colleague: comes into your office

You: "Good day to you. I'd love to hear how you've been. But first, what brings you here?"

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