How Many Times Do You Have to Say “Hi”?

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Hey! I need your advice. Got a minute?


Let’s go for a run. (Use your imagination, now.) I know this great 1.2 mile loop that circles a beautiful lake. We’ll take it sloooow and easy for about 8 laps.

We’re running now…

Some people are walking or running the same direction we are…

Others aren’t…

We say, “Morning,” to an Asian couple and offer a friendly wave as they walk past us going the other way. We do the same for a guy jogging with his Golden Retriever. And a flock of late-middle-aged ladies pumping their one-pound weights with a vengeance (you know the type). And a cute, pony-tailed 20-something who looks like she could run circles around us. And about 30 other people in singles and groups.

And then, we see the Asian couple again.

Here’s my dilemma

Do we say, “Morning,” again? I mean, we’re Christians, right? We’re supposed to be friendly, right? To heck with being shy or out of breath or pre-occupied. We’ve just gotta make eye contact and say hello or smile or something when we pass someone. WWJDWJ (What would Jesus do when jogging), right?

But how many times? Does the seventy times seven rule apply here? No matter how many times we pass someone we have to “Greet them in the name of the Lord?” Wouldn’t that be annoying?

Back to the Asian couple…

Too late. They’re too close. No time to think. We opt for erring on the over-friendly side and throw a little wave their way. They nod in return. There’s the guy with the dog again. Oh good, we’re off the hook. He’s pre-occupied picking something up with a plastic bag. Hey, there’s the pony-tail coming on fast. What do we do? What do we do? Saying anything might be interpreted as flirting (and I’m married to the other half of this blog), so we try to look like we’re serious runners, eyes straight ahead. She does the same. (We try to ignore the slightly disappointed feeling that flits past our egos like a spring breeze.) Uh oh, here come the geese again. They see us coming. They’re already smiling – a little too much. We offer a grunted “hi” and keep up the serious act.

And so we keep it up lap after lap passing people over and over again, wanting to be friendly, respectful, and well, fair, and all the time wondering, “Would somebody please tell us the RULES!?”

Do you know the rules? If you think you might have some advice, please leave a comment.

…I wonder if people who walk to work in New York City have this problem?

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6 thoughts on “How Many Times Do You Have to Say “Hi”?

  1. This reminds me of a comedy bit by Jerry Seinfeld, when he asks the same question of acknowlegement frequency but in office and work environments. He says, “Why do I ask the guy I pass in the hall (who I just passed 15 minutes ago and asked the same question of) ‘How ya doin?’ I know how he’s doing. I just asked him. What’s really going on here is that you’re just acknowledging their presence. So, I propose that from now on, when you pass someone in the hallway at work, you simply say “Acknowledge.” It’s simple. Cut to the chase. Two guys pass in the hallway and say to each other… “Acknowledge.” “Acknowledge.” and keep on going.

  2. I can totally relate! I run at a local park and sometimes at the local high school track and I’ve noticed that the other runners say hi once and only once. Dog-walkers and strollers say hi once, then smile the next few times around. When I trail run, I never say hi because I’m too focused on not tripping over a root or stump and faceplanting!

  3. I totally agree with Justin….first time a definite “Hi”, second time a smile and third and on, a nod or smile. They are probably feeling the same way ” how many time are we going to do this”

  4. we have a similar problem in the marines with saluting officers, or offering the proper greeting of the day to nco’s or ssnco’s. so here is the rule. if you see them often such as working with them, you give one greeting or one salute the first time you see them that day. after that your off the hook and a simple nod or oorah or the ever loved “errr” will suffice. so one greeting and then a nod or look of understanding. they are not close enough to expect more and if they are then they should be running WITH you. i don’t think god will send anyone to hell because you failed to say hi the 8th time u saw that person in the last 30min.

  5. I checked Emily Post and apparently unless you are on intimate terms with someone it is very vulgar to use the term “Hello” or “Hi”. The proper greeting is “How do you do?”

    The rule is – the first time you encounter someone you should stop, remove your hat, and bow and say “How do you do?” Then, when you see them again in a short amount of time you should tip your hat to them.

    Not wearing a hat? When you are outside? What kind of a gentleman are you?

    I think the point is – good manners and polite behavior is kind of an invention of the social elitists of a time we should be glad to see in our past. What are we left with then? Only the guidance of our own society – (which frankly would imply you don’t bother strangers when they are enjoying the park) – and the Bible (which requires you only not ogle the 20-something and show love to everyone.) I think loving your neighbor would include a friendly greeting, (one polite ‘hello’), and then the courtesy of not repeatedly harassing them because you haven’t bothered to find a more interesting route.

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