Say Good Morning: mini-mission

One thing I loved about living in Georgia was that everyone said hello. Actually, everyone said, “Hey”. Strangers said hey in the grocery store, in restaurants and just walking by on the street.

That doesn’t happen in my life very often anymore. Maybe that’s because I’m not in the south anymore or maybe it’s because of technology. When I lived in Georgia, there was no such thing as a cell phone, iPod or even email.

Today we are so connected, that we are often disconnected. I am a friendly person, but it is second nature for me to pop in my ear buds as soon as I get on a plane, start exercising or even when I’m working. Confession: sometimes I’m not listening to anything.

Ear buds are my do not disturb sign. They are also a sign that I’m not open to human connection. Ear buds say, “I am focused on my work, my space and my time and you aren’t invited.” I appreciate solitude and understand that there are times when I really need those ear buds, but not all the time.

I challenged myself, and I’m about to challenge you with a special mini-mission. Yesterday, I went walking (sans ear buds) in a popular Salt Lake City park and said “Good Morning” to every person I passed. I didn’t count, but am sure that I said “Good Morning” to more than 20 people in less than 30 minutes. Not only did I say “Good Morning”, but I did it with a friendly smile. Everyone smiled and said “Good Morning” back to me. I didn’t go as far as hugging everyone like my friend Joshua may have done, but really stepped outside of my comfort zone.

What came from this experiment?

  • I realized how often I avoid eye contact. It was a real challenge to look people in the eye that I didn’t know. Eye contact can feel threatening, but it is an immediate connection.
  • Focusing on others made it easier. When I thought about brightening someone’s day and sincerely wishing them a good day, it was easier than when I was thinking about myself and how awkward I felt.
  • We are more alike than we think. Everyone smiled back sincerely. I didn’t get one back off crazy smile. I remember how people treat me, and when a stranger waves or says hello, I feel recognized. Not in a I know you kind of way, but in a I know you are a person just like me kind of way. That recognition is important to our hearts.
  • It’s ok to be uncomfortable. I survived my discomfort, learned a few lessons, and had a brighter day because of it. While comfort is nice, it’s often in that place of discomfort that answers are revealed.
  • Kindness is underrated. A simple “Hello, how are you?” or sincere “Good Morning” goes a long way. When you are ready, stretch your wings and ask “How can I help?” Fight the need to be protective and think the best of people. Be nice more often. This behavior spreads.

Ok, now it’s your turn. Your mini-mission is to intentionally say “good morning” or another appropriate greeting to everyone you see the next time you are at the grocery store, out walking or wherever you pass by other people. This mini-mission also requires eye contact. It will feel strange and some people will think you are weird but you will be ok. When you look at people, really look at them, you can’t help but wish the best for them.

I am grateful that cell phones, email, Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist when I lived in Georgia. It was there that I fell in love with photography, met my best friend Kellie and said “hey” everyday to perfect strangers.

Go on, unplug and say good morning.

For more experiments to simplify your life, read Mini-missions for Simplicity. It’s available on the Amazon Kindle store, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.


  1. says

    This is a wonderful exercise but I have to admit it is also my weak spot. I have been complaining about exactly this since I have started to live in New Jersey. No one says hi on the street ( bigger the homes, the bigger the disconnect it seems) On my daily walks in the neighborhood, when I tried to smile, I have gotten some close to ‘back off crazy’ looks, and I have finally given up.

    I do smile and say his to people when I am walking on the boardwalk in Long Branch and this has been more successful.

    So, do you think it is a location thing?

    • Courtney Carver says

      It could be a location thing to some extent, but I think you should keep trying especially in your neighborhood. Let me know if you notice a difference, or make a connection after consistently being your friendly self.

  2. Leann says

    Great post! I noticed a similar experience when I was in Florence, Italy. Almost everyone greets you with a “good morning” or a “good evening”. It gives you such a warm, welcoming feeling, I have tried to keep it up back at home.

  3. says

    I’m up for it. Except on the treadmill. I will still wear my earbuds while running. But otherwise, I will do it at the store, the park or other public place. :)

  4. says

    I do that all the time anyway. I grew up in a place where people said hello, and I have lived all my life in places where everybody speaks. So when I go somewhere else ‘less friendly’ I see it why should I break what comes natural to me. Even in the places that are famous for people not speaking a lot of people smile and say hello back.
    I am a shy person but I have met so many interesting people and had many fascinating conversations with strangers that I said hello too

  5. says

    Holy Moly! I guess I’m just old school, because I’ve always said hello to everybody. Maybe people think I’m strange or something, I never thought about it. When I was in college I remember people making a big deal about how people said hi when they passed each other on the paths… like it was some tradition unique to that school or something. Most of my fellow students came from the NYC area – I always assumed that people in the NYC area must just be unfriendly or something, but maybe this is a bigger issue than I knew. Of course that was 25 years ago…

    Anyhow, I guess I’m participating by default because it would seem horribly rude to me to pass a stranger and NOT say hello. Of course these days people seem intent on carrying their little personal spheres with them every where they go. I still can’t get used to it… everybody with their little bluetooth devices… or ipods or iphones or whatever (I don’t own any of these devices, so I’m sure I’m getting the names wrong.) I just can’t understand why people want to bring their little world with them every place they go… I mean, if you’re gonna do that, then what’s the point of going anywhere?

  6. says

    I do this already — but my challenge as of late is to say hello to the homeless rather than avoiding eye contact or saying no, sorry, I don’t have change. Saying hi makes them a person and they usually smile and say hi back.

  7. says

    I love this – what a great challenge! After living in 3 different cities over the past 10 years I’ve become used to not talking to strangers, even saying hello! But when I come back to the small town I grew up in I realize that everyone here says that to each other. You are certainly right, we are more alike than we think and kindness is underrated! : )

  8. Jill says

    I LOVE this mini mission! I do this at work every day, and if I’m feeling under the weather, or am too busy and forget to do it people notice. Over time, those you see everyday come to expect it of you, and when you aren’t in that greeting frame of mind they know something is wrong. I do have a hard time doing this when I’m anywhere but at work. It’s very hard for me to step out of my comfort zone at the grocery store or the harware store. I guess I see my job at work to make everyone’s day a little brighter. I need to do that outside of work too. Thanks for this challenge!!

  9. Meredith says

    I inadvertently started this mini-mission about a month ago, when we moved from the suburbs to the city. We walk/bike/ride the bus everywhere now, and so we pass tons of people daily, unlike when we were in the ‘burbs and rarely saw a soul, due to being in our cars constantly. It has been great. Sometimes it is hard to do, depending on my mood (I’m an introvert naturally, so it is pushing my comfort boundaries in general!), but most of the time it’s fun.

  10. says

    I think this is a great post and inspiring suggestion. A couple years ago when I was newer here in Florida, I felt so exposed and invisible at the same time. It was physically as well as emotionally and mentally uncomfortable. I’ve learned since then that although I tend to talk more than I wish I would, and write more, too, I am very much an introvert and while shy does NOT seem to really “fit” I am very much unto myself in the World. I share this backstory only to say how happy I was to read this. When I was unbearably uncomfortable, I BEgan to smile, wave, say Good Morning, and make eye contact with people when I was out walking with Gracie each morning. [a secret: I was often scared of NOT BEing seen as well over 70% of those driving were absorbed in their cell phone conversations]. It shifted my focus. It caused me to look UP and see the amazing blue sky, the lush trees, the kiss of the ocean in my BEautimous new home.
    This year I have BEcome very quiet and disciplined. I give myself challenges all the time and what I am finding is there is a Very Happy BEan living inside my skin.
    I used to feel like a reject BEcause love and I haven’t ever found a lasting connection, and I was especially feeling this after this move and the end of a 15 year relationship. In the 3 years I’ve Now been here I have grown to love myself, deeply, and I think that has been the missing link… I enJOY my own company, I find Solitude more delicious than chocolate, and though I may seem to keep just to myself, I am very aware of and care deeply about everyone BEyond my nose or, in this case, my fingertips!!!
    Anyhow, I really enJOY what you write, Courtney, and I am so grateful our paths have crossed here in the Wondrous Weird World.

  11. Paula says

    This is a great mini mission proposal!
    I have actually been doing this for while as well! Leaving my ipod at home, avoiding being on my cellphone when i walk, on the train, when going to the bank teller, cashier, etc. Just saying Hi and staying connected to the person in front of me makes a huge difference. People are not used to being look straight in their eyes anymore.
    I agree with Kathleen from Portland! Saying Hello and making eye contact with homeless people on the streets, reall brightens their day and make them feel human! sometimes, we tend to forget that!

  12. SarahN says

    Ah, the earbuds – my colleagues just shout my name louder! I put them in when I need to focus and get stuff done. We have a work chat program, I just wish they’d ‘interrupt’ me like that!

    I love walking and having people say morning to me (I am a little put out when I do it and people ignore me! I’m like, really, is hello that hard/scary?) I shall try it! Europe (namely France) are FANTASTIC at it – I mean you can’t do anything without a bonjour first – even browsing a store, there’s always to say hi too. I’ve noticed it changed my habits in Australia – I now seek someone to say hi to when I enter a store… IT can get awkward in tiny stores and I’m the only browser, but hey, if I don’t browse, I’ll NEVER buy!

    Kathleen – that really is the challenge for me!
    Jill – another boss on my floor is a ‘hi’er’ but it’s a little over the top – he ends up saying everyone’s name (rather than hi) and it can get tiresome as he’s trying to walk from a to b and rattles off all these names!

  13. says

    It is one of the things that does strike me about living in Hawaii. Often times people who don’t even know me look straight at me and say “Aloha”.

    The other thing I find interesting and a practice that is quite warming but was never done when I lived in San Diego… upon introduction people will give a kiss on the cheek and say “Aloha”.

    It’s kinda cool really. There are a lot of adjustments to living in Hawaii from the mainland. This is a good one!

    With much Aloha!

  14. Annie says

    Im from the NYC area and we always say good morning, afternoon, etc. I do it even when I’m out for a run, you nod, wave, or say hello to fellow exercisers. Someone who moved here recently said that they wee stunned how many people said good morning when out for a run. It’s such a nice thing.

  15. Kathi says

    I live in a small town in the Midwest. My dog and I do a sidewalk walk two or three times a day and EVERYONE says hello, even though I have my do-not-disturb earbuds on. At least once a day I have to fumble in my pocket for my iPod to turn off the podcast I’m listening to to have a conversation with whoever starts one, whether I want to have that conversation or not.

    I totally get the point of this exercise, and probably in bigger cities it’s a bizarre thing to smile and say hello to people, but here in small town America, it’s practically an unwritten law that you smile and say hello to everyone you come across.

    Maybe we should have a mini-mission of snarling at everyone we meet. That’d shake things up! 😉

  16. Michelle says

    I live in a small community south of Houston called Santa Fe. I talk to everyone. Hello, good afternoon, thank you…and all with a big Texas smile. Doesn’t matter where I am. Grocery store, gas station or working in my yard.
    I work in a school in Pasadena and do the same all day. I’m the administrator that greets parents, students and bus drivers in the morning as they drop off and in the afternoon when they leave. At first it took everyone by surprise and I got many “crazy lady” looks. Now parents bring me hot chocolate on cold mornings, bottled water when it’s hot, breakfast treats and smiles. One mom brought me a beautiful, very large umbrella because, yes I stand outside rain or hine. I find it’s the best way to start a morning. It drives some of my family crazy but I’ve learned it’s usually just out of their comfort zone. If I can start my day ff with a smile and share that with everyone I meet it makes my day. May you find it does the same r you! :)

  17. Ree Donnelly says

    I really enjoyed this post! I have done this, and, living in New England, people are not as open to it. But like you say, when you think of what you’re doing in terms of making the other person feel good…it’s easy. Kindness truly matters!!!

  18. Queen Mary says

    I do this already. One day, after lunch, I was walking with the friend with whom I had lunched. We passed an older gentleman “pan handling” (PC for begging). He asked me if I had any extra pizza. I was carrying a pizza box with my lunch leftovers in it. I smiled and said, “you know I do!” and handed him the pizza box. He was shocked – which shocked me! He exclaimed, “Sweet Jesus,” and I replied, “no, I’m Mary.” He looked up at me and said, “that’s a beautiful name!” I said “thanks, see ya later,” and we walked on. I always make eye contact — no silver backs around here! :)

  19. Kathleen says

    Great post! I have always considered myself a very friendly person. I chat with people easily and am a good listener. In the last couple of years though I have noticed myself feeling uncomfortable looking strangers in the eye, I have been purposefully avoiding eye contact with people. This really has bothered me and I have been trying to train myself otherwise, so this is a wonderful mini mission for me! I feel so much better in general when I connect with the people around me, the more I do it the easier it gets! I love to people watch and when I do it, I also notice how we are all so much the same…. and that is a comforting feeling.
    Thank you!

  20. Kathy in Chicago says

    I LOVE IT! I always say “good morning” or smile & nod at people on my morning route. It’s such a great way to start at day in a positive spirit!

    I remember years ago sitting in a airport, and no one was talking to each other. Everyone had ear buds in, or was playing with their phones. I kept thinking “have we lost the art of making small talk”? As a result, on our vacations, we go 1 step further. No phones, no turning on the TV in the hotel rooms, no computer usage unless it’s to map quest directions (which is done quite frequently when traveling with 2 kids who are in charge of reading the paper map). Our vacations are so incredibly relaxing, that we truly cry when we have to get back home.

  21. Sylvie Branch says

    Such a challenging, mini-challenge! I love it…even though it makes me supremely uncomfortable just thinking about it….but I am up for a good challenge :)
    Thanks for the great tips!

  22. Diana says

    This is something I was thinking about recently, too. I have been hiking up in the canyons by Salt Lake City (but I notice it anywhere I go hiking). When I pass someone on that mountain trail I am much more likely to say hi, and other people seem to be the same way. I have been pondering why that is – we are only 20 minutes from the city, and we are the same people up there. But there is something different about being in nature I guess. So my goal is to be more friendly in my everyday life, not just when I’m on a hiking trail.

  23. says

    I’ve always done this and I think it’s massively important to my good mood. It’s easier to be cheerful if you can see the positive impact you’re having just by being alive and smiley. Plus there are wonderful people to meet and I’m sure I only know a tiny amount of the people I could know and like :) here’s to smiling & saying hello,x

  24. Preston says

    I’ve actually tried a very similar self-imposed challenge and was met with mixed responses. I’m in Salt Lake City as well…so I hope I bump into you at the park next time we’re both out offering friendly greetings.

  25. Kay says

    I’ll do this and report!

    This brought to mind a rural couple whose house I used to pass daily on my commute. I didn’t know them, but they waved at me (and every other car) each time I drove by and they were in their yard/on their porch. I really missed them when they weren’t out there.

    Recently I visited a rural area in Ohio and noticed the same thing—people waved, just to be friendly. It made me feel good inside!

  26. DC says

    A new term I just saw this morning: ‘distracted walking’. Many people are not ‘in the moment’ as they walk. They are distracted by their devices. Some have actually gotten hurt by walking into oncoming traffic!

  27. MelD says

    It was impressed upon me as a child when we moved from a British suburb to city in Switzerland that one had to say “bonjour” and be polite – it was just considered the polite thing to do. Only, the city was pretty big and I soon learned it wasn’t the done thing to greet everyone on the streets. However, you’d always say hello to people if you entered a closed space, and also express thanks and a good bye on exiting.
    Now I live in the east of Switzerland and in any town smaller than 5000 inhabitants, you are expected to greet everyone you see on the street, and if you know the name, you address them by name (either formally or casually, depending on status). It’s really rude to forget someone’s name, hard sometimes when you only met them once ages ago or in a store…! In bigger towns, you only greet in a closed space where you will receive service, well everywhere except on the street or in a mall.
    If you encounter a group in any kind of social setting, you are expected to shake hands with and greet each individual by name, often with cheek kisses, and you always look people in the eye, also when raising glasses – much of this is strange to foreigners but our kids learn it young. At kindergarten, they learn to shake hands with the teacher each morning and look her in the eye with a formal greeting and firm handshake, same at the end of the session, and they continue with this throughout their school career, so it is ingrained in them all… I feel very lucky to live in an “old-fashioned” country where respectful behaviour still counts.

  28. Tina B says

    In my last job, I worked at a community college in IL. Not in a big city, in a place in the middle of a corn field. We had several buildings joined by walk-ways and many of us walked for exercise on breaks or at lunch. Whenever I walked through a building other than my own, I would seek out eye contact and to say hello. While not really surprised that the traditional-aged students didn’t typically respond or make eye contact, I was surprised at the number of faculty, staff and older students who didn’t either (even without ear buds). I was so surprised by this that it made me work all the harder to make the connection with people. It was disappointing, but I knew that I had tried.

    I must say that I am offended when someone sits next to me on a plane with ear buds already in and doesn’t even look at me or say hello for “fear” that I will try to talk to them throughout the flight. So very sad that we can’t even politely acknowledge folks anymore.

  29. says

    I agree, kindness is definitely underrated and the kind behavior does spread. I was so annoyed at work today where I walk in every morning and say “good morning” really loud and people just don’t look, answer or have any type of reaction. I feel like throwing paper balls at everyone.