During the summer of 2019, my cousin married a Parisian woman. The wedding was in Paris and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend.
We arrived several days early to be able to spend some time exploring and experiencing Paris. It was a phenomenal week.
On the first day, I decided to climb up the 300 or so stairs of the tower of the Sacré Coeur church for a view of the city. There is a charge to do so, so I got in line to buy a ticket.
The person before me in line, also an American, walked up to the booth and asked for two tickets. The woman behind the glass said, “Bonjour” (French for ‘hello’). The tourist repeated, “Two tickets please“. The woman behind the glass repeated, “Bonjour.” The tourist said, “Hello. Two tickets please,” at which point the transaction proceeded.
When it was my turn, I said, “Bonjour.” The woman behind the glass said, “Bonjour.” I asked for a ticket, paid for it, and went on my way.
At that moment I decided, I was going to make sure to say hello to every person I met on the trip before asking them for tickets or anything else.
I thought about it and realized: in the United States, if you go to a ticket counter and ask for two tickets without saying hello, the person behind the glass will nearly always simply process your order.
As the ticket buyer, you know there are usually people in line behind you eager to buy their tickets, and the person behind the glass wants to move the line along quickly. So, if you don’t say “hello”, it is quite unlikely people will react the way the woman did at Sacré Coeur.
However, if you do say “hello”, you will almost always get a “hello” back. It will be a pleasant exchange of greetings. Everything will slow down—but just slightly.
I have continued doing that since returning home and I recommend it. Just taking those extra couple of seconds to humanize the experience has been a positive thing for me, and I’m sure for almost all the people I have said “hello” to.
I’ve also noticed customer service people I speak with (an airline, for example) greatly appreciate when I ask how they are doing. They often ask first, and I don’t think everyone asks them back because they almost always thank me for asking—which I am pretty sure they were trained to do, but I know it doesn’t hurt to ask them.
How do you take a few extra seconds to humanize your interactions?