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Something to consider when you’re greeting someone today

woman earbuds

Ekateryna Zubal | Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 05/13/24

Here's a way to ensure great manners while still enjoying technology in our modern world.

While we were growing up, our parents instilled in us the manners that reflected the society at the time. However, as our world is permanently evolving, it’s important to update etiquette when we recognize that there’s a little slippage in behaving correctly.

I admit a personal bugbear of mine is how we greet people when they have their sunglasses glued to their faces. Personally, I have very sensitive eyes, so as soon as the sun is out I shield them. However, if I meet a friend, or if I’m introduced to someone, I’ll take off my sunglasses for a few seconds to give them a proper hello before returning the sunglasses to their much-needed position.

I believe it’s important for people I meet to be able to read my eyes when I see them and see that I’m bothering to properly acknowledge their existence. I suppose this is possibly a more modern take on doffing one’s cap.

Yet in recent years I’ve noticed another modern accessory that can interfere with our greetings: our beloved earbuds.

Feeling ignored

It started with my own kids, who love to have their earbuds in whenever possible — perhaps it’s to pretend they can’t hear me calling out their names when needing help. It drives me a little crazy, because when I do see them and they have their ears filled with plastic, I have no idea if they’re actually listening to me.

I tried to deal with my kids, but then I picked up on it in the classroom where I teach young adults. A few of my cheekier students thought it was okay to wear their buds in class while pretending to be focused on the lesson. Stupidly I hadn’t noticed they were actually wearing them, and when I did they pretended they’d forgotten they had them in. Hmm… I tried to deal with them, too.

A source of confusion

And it’s not that I became earbud obsessed, but I started to remark how it’s so easy to forget we have them in sometimes. It can confuse people when we greet them as they have no idea if you can actually hear them properly or not. And as for the elderly, well, my poor parents are totally lost when attempting to chat to anyone with earbuds.

I realize it’s not exactly easy to bump into a friend, ditch the sunglasses and then take out the earbuds, but it’s something to be aware of. Even if we’ve muted our music or podcast, it might be a wise idea to really show the person you’re listening to them — either by taking them out, or actually saying something like “Don’t worry, the sound’s off.” In this way they’ll know that they’re not competing with our faithful plastic audible friends.

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