Why Having to Say Hello Twice can Be So Awkward « Pun Intended
Written by Bamboo Forest


Illustration by zmanxx

This isn’t talked about much, but P.I. is all about facing the tougher issues of life, head on. We’re not going to sit back and ignore the issues that everyone else won’t discuss.

Have you ever said hello to someone, only shortly after to be in a situation where you have to say hello, again. It happens to all of us.

How do you go about it? Is there a solution to this patently awkward situation? Let’s explore, together, these fundamental questions.

In my studies, I’ve come across 3 ways to deal with the circumstance of having to say hello twice.

The first one is simply dealing with it. Sure you just crossed paths with Roger in the hallway. Oh, look – it’s unavoidable! You’re now crossing paths again, and just 5 minutes later. So what do you do?

You both say hello one more time (with reluctancy plastered on your faces) and pretend there’s nothing awkward at all about it, when there sure as hell is. For crying out loud, you two just said hello 5 minutes ago!

Then there’s the tried and true method of preemptive avoidance. With this one, people go to extraordinary lengths in order to prevent having to say hello a 2nd time.

The following account is particularly startling. One man, we’ll call him Henry, was in a situation where he knew he’d be crossing paths with an acquaintance for the second time. He already said hello the first time – and was willing to do just about anything to prevent the humility of having to say hello, again. He didn’t know how to cope with the situation – so he took drastic measures.

This all took place in Australia. Henry, a boy in the 10th grade, had just said hello to Jonathon. Yet he knew – on his way to 3rd period, crossing paths with him again was unavoidable. While he was sitting in class waiting for 2nd period to end – the stress was building.

5 minutes of class to go, said Henry, what shall I do?!?!

Then a flash of inspirations struck him cold. There was only one way out of the horrors of having to say hello a 2nd time, thought Henry. I shall trek across the swamp! If I do so, I’ll make it on time to 3rd period and avoid having to say hi to Jonathon a 2nd time.

So Henry began the trek by immersing his feet into the muddy water. He was on his way to class, rummaging through the swamp when he was abruptly interrupted by a camera man who happen to be shooting a documentary that day. The camera man yelled out to Henry, “youngster, what are you doing – there’s crocs in here.”

Henry replied, “I’m avoiding having to say hi a 2nd time to an acquaintance of mine.”

As you can see, people will go to amazing lengths to avoid the 2nd hello. What have you done?

Another strategy, often employed, is simply pretending the person you are crossing – who you had just earlier said hi to, isn’t there (but they are). You may pretend not to notice the person by turning your head as you approach – as if a terrible neck cramp has just befallen you. You may even act as if a huge clump of dust has just invaded your eyes, and you’re frantically trying to get it out.

I propose a fourth method, though. Why not toss out all of the above and simply say, “hi x 2!” Yeah, I guess that would be weird too, wouldn’t it.

In summary, there are four ways to deal with saying hello a second time:

1. Do it and feel like a genuine ass, even as you pretend not to.

2. Go the long route, no matter what the consequence, in order to prevent the circumstance of the 2nd hello.

3. Pretend you just don’t see the person the second time around. Maybe this time, you happen to be practicing an esoteric walking meditation you learned from the latest New Age book, and in a real sense the person doesn’t exist. I guess.

4. “Hi x 2!”

What’s the moral of the story? No matter what you do with the 2nd hello, it will always be weird and awkward. So deal with it. I do.

Illustration by Cheinei

24 Responses to “Why Having to Say Hello Twice can Be So Awkward”
  1. Mike Goad says:

    How about just nodding or just saying “hi,” realizing that you’re likely to run into them again soon. When you do run into them again, just nod or wave or say, “hi” or “hi, again.”

  2. Writer Dad says:

    The second hello should always be in another language. For example: Hello, and THEN, Hola.

  3. patti says:

    Bamboo- funny post- because we have all been there!!!- I’ll go with #2- adding to that- reversing your direction- as if you have all of a sudden forgotten something-thus avoiding any eye contact at all. A little hand smack to your forehead further cements the validity of your reversal of direction-( and remember- don’t look up}- Your focus is on what you have forgotten- disguising the fact that you really don’t want to say hello again!- Hey- but they don’t know that!

  4. Scott McIntyre says:

    If this awkward situation happens to me, Bamboo, I usually just say ‘hey’ with a wry smile and a shrug of the shoulders…

    and usually the other person does the same thing too. Cringeworthy or what?! πŸ˜‰

  5. Marelisa says:

    Hi Bamboo: I either just smile and walk on or say something like: “you again”. It helps if you have a short anecdote that happened in the short time-span before you saw them last like: “They finally repaired the copier” or “I’m on my way to the cafeteria, I’m starving.” I think it’s great that you discuss these life issues on your blog πŸ™‚

  6. Ellen Wilson says:

    Hi Bamboo,

    I’ve seen you around and figured it’s about time I say HI!

    You know, I always just smile and nod. And if I see the person a third time I’ll just look at them. They won’t even look my way.

    Sometimes if I am trying to avoid someone I won’t look at them. Let’s face, as you say, there is ALWAYS someone you don’t want to see. And it always seems to happen at the weirdest time to…

  7. I do about the same as Marelisa. Give them a knowing look and smile as if to say, “We’re in that exclusive club of people who’ve already said hello to each other and aren’t afraid to acknowledge it.”

  8. @ Mike: Your approach is a fair one. Thanks for the input.

    @ Writer Dad: That’s an excellent choice. I shall take it upon myself to learn ‘hello’ in many languages – and the 2nd hello phenomenon will be solved!

    @ Patti: That’s a valid course of action. And works.

    @ Scott: lol… Excellent!

    @ Marelisa: The old ‘anecdote’ approach. I forgot about that one! Good one!

    @ Ellen: Glad you stopped by. Hi back! A smile is a good approach to the 2nd hello.

  9. And Ellen too. Didn’t see her comment. I mean it’s not like I just saw her for the third time today and tried to pretend I didn’t see her.

  10. @ Bill: hehe, good one. Glad you’re not afraid to acknowledge it πŸ™‚ Heh, I guess you can have a 2nd hello circumstance – even in the blogosphere.

  11. Hi Bamboo,

    That’s what I love about P.I., I never know what subject(s) you’ll be discussing.

    I normally will nod and smile, or if I’m feeling goofy, I might say, “Oh no, you again?’, or “We have to stop meeting like this.”

  12. Vered says:

    I just smile.

    πŸ™‚

  13. I think a smile with limited eye contact is the best way to go for the second go-around.

  14. Luis Gross says:

    Wow! LOL!

    This happens to me so often Bamboo — it’s not even funny. I’m like a seasoned pro at this.

    I actually made a plan for such situations — πŸ˜‰

    Here’s what I do:

    I either give an eyebrow shrug, where I push my eyebrows up and my forehand gets all wrinkled because of it, and I add to it a closed-mouth smile. Now, that might sound funny, but trust I look very handsome when doing so — πŸ™‚

    If not, I’ll do what Marelisa does and hit ’em with an “anecdote”.

    Usually, with these two, I get the job done.

    But, I have to tell you Bamboo, there’s one that still gets me: The handshake and the second person factor.

    Allow me to explain,

    the second person factor is when you see the person you already said hello to, talking with someone you know, but haven’t yet said hello to. Now, they both see me, and I give the person I already saw the eyebrow-shrug, with the closed smile, no handshake.

    The person I haven’t seen I give a much “better” hello, full smile, greet and shake hands with them, and in the midst of this greet there of course is a huge feeling of awkwardness.

    Then we all leave, and the person I saw last just might think me and the other person don’t like each other very much.

    Unless they ask to clarify, which most people probably won’t do, the thought lingers in their head, or at least I hope not — πŸ™‚

    Great topic!

  15. Lance says:

    The tough issues….

    Yes, we’ve all been there. Yes, it is awkward. Yes, you’ve hit upon all the methods I’ve used to deal with it. No, it doesn’t make it any less awkward. I guess that’s life. Hey, there could be worse things that happen to us, right??

  16. @ Barbara: Thank you. We try to write about fresh subjects when we can. Your two approaches to the 2nd hello are quite valid. I’ve used them too.

    @ Vered: A smile. Works.

    @ Llama Fish: ‘Limited eye contact’ Very excellent method to incorporate into the smile.

    @ Luis: I have no doubts you look good when performing that tactic.

    “Handshake and second person factor” Compelling. And, sounds like a real challenge! Yet, you tackle it with grace and calm. Well done! You are indeed the champion of the 2nd hello. Highly experienced.

    @ Lance: Indeed there could be. And the 2nd hello is here to stay.

  17. Al at 7P says:

    I usually joke and say, “Ha! Are you following me?” It’s a great way to ease the tension, especially if you did indeed catch them following you.

  18. SpaceAgeSage says:

    I use the body language response:
    Half a smile that says without words, “Oh, we meet again,” followed by a sideways head bob (a short head bow) of acknowledgment, or maybe a small hand gesture about waist high, or perhaps even a silly salute.

  19. @ Al. A joke can be effective.

    @ SpaceAgeSage: Sounds like you’ve got it down. Thanks for sharing your techniques

  20. Natural says:

    I say hello to people twice all the time. I don’t mind if I’m friendly with them. Sometimes I do it to bug them and we laugh about it. I say hello in different languages. If it’s someone I don’t want to speak to, I simply don’t.

  21. Evelyn Lim says:

    Hahaha….such a funny post! I’ve been in the situation before, I have to admit!! I like your hi x 2 idea.

  22. Urbane Lion says:

    I usually use Al’s strategy. Or, I’ll ask the person if she’s just shy to ask me out for a drink!

  23. Tim Brownson says:

    Wading through my 4 day unread feeder and I’m look for stuff to mark as read. This was a prime candidate until I started reading and laughed my ass off. Therefore, you owe me one ass and about 5 minutes of productivity please.

  24. @ Evelyn: This is such a human situation!

    @ Urban Lion: Interesting strategy.

    @ Tim: heh. This is productivity! I’m teaching you the facts of life.

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