I have a client from Africa. He struggled to understand the vagueness of our North American greetings, “How are you?” and “how’re you doin’?”
In a corner of Africa where he came, the people ritually greet each other with the words:
“Sawubona!” — meaning: “I see you. You are real, not a spirit!”
To which a response is, “Yabo, sawubona!” — meaning: “Yes, I see you, too!”
Inherent in this traditional greeting is the sense that until you saw me, I didn’t exist. When you stand before me, when you recognize me and acknowledge me, you have brought me into being.
In part, this perspective springs from a culture that recognizes our relationships with others. A person is a person because of others.
So this raises questions I invite you to ponder:
How do YOU, in your greetings communicate a sense of sawubona, “I see you”?
What does it mean, to YOU, to “see” the other? What does that look like? Sound like? Feel like?
In sum, to “see” each other is to create a dialogue. It establishes you as a witness to someone’s presence and potential. It invites you to participate in their life, and him or her in yours.
Here’s a deconstruction of how this might play out.
When you come to a meeting, as you mingle with colleagues, you choose to avoid the vague, general formula: “Hi, how are you?” or “How’re you doin’!” Instead, you say something engaging:
“Hi, Linda, I’m so glad you have come to the meeting today…I missed you last month.”
“Wow, nice boots Monica! You carry yourself well when you wear them.”
“Please share your story again, Anne. It is inspiring to hear how well your business has done.”
All of these are “sawubona” greetings. Each says, “I see you!” They mark a place in your world of the person you are greeting — Linda, Moncia, Anne.
You communicate “I see you!” as you say their name. You communicate “I see you!” as you recall a particular circumstance in their life, or some aspect of your shared experiences. You communicate “I see you!” as you acknowledge what that person means to you.
Engaged and attentive are the signals of identity and relationship. This is the gift of full attention.
My client tells a cautionary tale about the automatic, formulaic nature of our greeting rituals and the perils of speaking by rote:
Ping, an international student rolled his Smart car down an embankment, into a deep ditch.
“We’re coming!” would-be rescuers called down to him, “How are you doing?”
“Fine, thank you”, said Ping politely, just as he had been taught, “and you?”
So the would-be rescuers left . . . and that was the last of Ping.
Networking is a vital part of doing business. Face-to-face networking is more than social networking; F2F puts a face to your name, a name to your business and opens eyes to who you are and what you do.
Eyes speak loudly.
Invited to a recent meeting, I was introduced by the President to a business colleague. Hands were shaken, pleasantries exchanged and when asked if I was a member of the association, I said no. I am the President’s Virtual Assistant.
His eyes glazed over and focused on a distant point across the room. The conversation stopped. Attempts to engage further were one-sided and awkward. I was aware he no longer cared to converse, convene or contact visually. I excused myself.
Snubbed by a social climber. Ouch.
Mr. Patronizing’s narrow vision limits his sight.
For me, it was an eye-opener.
How do you say THANK YOU?
Verbally – to the morning barista.
Expressional-ly – with a smile to the coworker who pushed the elevator button for you.
Lip synch – to the traffic control flagperson.
Physically – with a handshake.
Electronically – on an Email message.
Printed – on your invoice.
In writing – by your own hand.
Charitably – with a donation.
Belatedly – with sincerity.
Email signature blocks are must haves.
Important contact information must be included when sending or receiving an email message – it authenticates you.
Name, business, telephone, mobile phone, business name, address, logos, IM, SKYPE, vCard, website, social media connections, quotes, sig tags, Emoticons, legal disclaimers, virus checked messages…that’s a lot of YOU.
Email exchanges can stretch for several “pages” and including your full signature with each reply can turn email chats voluminous.
Include your full-on, BIG “this is me” signature the first time.
After that, who you are.
“Sorry, I am unable to answer your call, please leave a message.”
We have all stopped at this prompt to gather our thoughts before leaving a reply.
Say what needs to be said, clearly. Language manners matter.
Messages can vary in length. Voices can waver in pitch and tone. Background noises, accents, hurried speech or mumbling impact intelligibility as well as coughing, hiccups and cell phone reception. The listener may be hearing impaired.
Who are you?
What is your business name?
How can I reach you?
Why are you calling?
“Thank you for calling, your message is important.”
I understand the importance of physical and moral autonomy and the governing principles for the commercial use of personal information.
What I don’t understand is why businesses hide their address. Where are you? How do I send cards, letters or parcels?
Sometimes my clients ask me to send their clients a greeting. Sometimes a phone call is all it takes to get an address. Sometimes a different time zone, country and language add to the perplexity—and the cost of investigating.
Conventional postal services deliver more than notes, greetings, chocolates and gifts; they deliver thoughtfulness. Clients feel acknowledged. It feels rewarding to hear they were “wow’ed” by the surprise of old fashioned mail. But it can be hard to be nice when there is nowhere to deliver it.
Generally, I almost always find you and wow, it makes the mailing that much sweeter.
So, make it easy, where am I sending your card?