“Good morning” Possibly one of the most common phrases in the English language, in fact, I would dare to say, including its translations it may be one of the most common phrases in language. But what if I told you that the oh-so-common phrase actually had a social power we weren’t aware of, or more accurately didn’t appreciate. A power that can change the energy of a room and the the disposition of people.
I first experienced this power as a young man, or more accurately, a little boy. Growing up in a family business, I always took part in a number of regular business operations including making deposits at the bank. One morning upon arriving at the bank with the company bearer, I walked into the bank lobby where I noticed a long line of full grown miseries. Each with their financial struggles and stresses upon their faces, slumped shoulders bearing the weight of debt, and tapping toes as patience from waiting in line began to wear thin. Without thinking of all the social norms and confines expected of polite society, and little boys, I greeted the entirety of the bank with a casual good morning. Silence was the response from the bank. Whether out of frustration or a feeling of being ignored, I couldn’t tell you, but let’s just say I didn’t take kindly to the silent reply. I took a deep breathe and as loud as I could I announced to the bank “GOOD MORNING!” Then the unexpected happened; people started looking around, and when they had spotted the source of the greeting, stresses turned to smiles, shoulders leaned back and small laughs escaped, and the tapping ceased in light of amusement. It was for a brief moment but one good morning, changed the energy of a room full of people (and worries).
As a young man I was always searching for ways to make things simpler, easier, and better, from complex problems, to mundane tasks. As Bill Gates says, “Give a difficult task to a lazy person, and they’ll find the easiest way to do it.” As it so happens I was one of those lazy people looking for the easiest solution to any issue. I eventually took up one of the smallest annoyances, so small it shouldn’t even be called an annoyance, and that is checking what time of day it was before greeting someone. I always felt a little stupid having to check my watch in order to greet someone. Thinking on this minute and mundane annoyance I came to my first realization about it, and that is, time and greetings are broken up into two halves, AM and PM. AM belonged to “good morning” and PM belonged to “good afternoon, “good evening”, and “good night”. The problem lied in the PM. My solution, if I get rid of the others and only say good morning, I should be right roughly half of the time, I could live with that, and so out of laziness I began only greeting people with “good morning”, regardless of the time of day.
“Give a difficult task to a lazy person, and they’ll find the easiest way to do it.”– Bill Gates
At first my good morning’s that were shared in the PM would get the queerest of looks. People would check their watches, try and correct me, respond with their relativity statements “I guess it’s morning somewhere”, some would even ask me where was I from. However one thing was consistent, other than those adamantly adherent to societal standards, most would smile, laugh, and respond with a “good morning” themselves. Some people at my workplace even started picking up the habit of only saying “good morning”, regardless of the time of day. The corrections and surprises I expected, the smiles and laughs were welcomed, the good morning replies were a little surprising, and the picking up of the habit, in all honesty, was close to shocking. The warmness with which this incorrect use of “good morning” was received got me thinking and keenly observing how people greeted each other. Those hours of observation revealed a very interesting truth about language; words both have a definition and a meaning.
Growing up we are encouraged, or forced, to learn the correct definitions of words. Definitions were essential to language whether for spelling purposes, grammar lessons, communication exercises, or in some rare cases parents starting to groom a lawyer in the family; but words also have associated meanings. Things that we intrinsically know, whether it is how something is said, or the manner and timing in which it is said. Strong evidence of this can be found in corporate emails, whereby definition the emails are very polite, but by meaning are very snarky, and even sometimes rude. The same thing can be said about how we greet each other. According to the definition, the “good” should be followed by the time of day, signifying a greeting in the present. The associated meanings however can be very different. “Good night” is often used to communicate the day is over and I’m done with this interaction. “Good evening” tends to mean the day is winding down, or in Jamaica it can mean I’m wearing a suit and I’m at a formal function. “Good afternoon” is more than often accompanied by the thought, what is for lunch? When is lunch? Or I just had lunch. “Good morning” however is the only greeting out of all of them that no matter how it is said, if even said begrudgingly, is a welcome of the new day. To take it a step further, you could say “good morning” is a welcome of a new opportunity.
I believe this is the reason behind the acceptance, the smiles, the laughs, the replies, and the adoption of “good morning”. It’s not a word choice issue, or a cool slang, or a quirky thing to do, it’s an energy thing. It’s a deeper meaning than definition thing. It’s a deep unconscious welcome to a new opportunity that each of us yearns for whether we say it out loud or not. So next time you get the chance share a “good morning”, and enjoy the confusion, the smile, the possible reply, and in time maybe even the adoption. With just two words, you could brighten somebody’s day, give them a smile they never had, and possibly begin fostering a change to their world. With just a little positive energy sent through two words. GOOD MORNING!!!