Let’s Talk About Waving: A Block Talk Exploration
Some people are serial wavers. Others barely nod and say their neighbors shouldn’t take it personally. Some kids don’t know what to think.
ACROSS AMERICA — Let’s talk about waving. Do you always wave at neighbors when passing by? Do you wave, but only if your neighbor waves first? Or do you just continue along your way, pretending you and they are invisible, and never raise a hand in a wave or even offer the minimalist, two-finger salute?
Some took the “leave me alone” approach when we asked on Facebook for advice on the etiquette of waving at neighbors for our third installment of Block Talk, an every-other-week feature in which Patch readers guide each other through neighborhood issues and traditions.
People often have good reasons for not waving that may not be obvious to their neighbors. Maybe their relationships are outside the neighborhood and, frankly, they’re not looking for more connections. They may be naturally shy and reserved, and waving is outside their comfort zone. Their reasons are their business, and Block Talk is a judgment-free zone.
“I don’t wave, and I don’t wait for them to wave,” a Toms River, New Jersey, Patch reader wrote.
A Joliet, Illinois, Patch reader is all for minding her own business, too. “I don’t make eye contact,” she wrote, “and it works not having to do anything.”
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“I don’t like people,” a Lansdale, Pennsylvania, Patch reader wrote, “so I probably won’t even look at you to receive or give a wave.”
A Middleton, New Jersey, Patch reader is strategic about leaving the house and waits “until there’s no people in sight before going outside.”
A Branford, Connecticut, Patch reader has something to say about that.
“I always wave. But am shocked by the people that don’t wave back,” she wrote, adding, “It’s insulting really.”
And a Concord, New Hampshire, Patch reader has something to say about that.
“Honestly, if I wave or not has nothing to do with my neighbors at all,” the person wrote. “It has to do with what I have going on inside my mind. Some days, I feel great and wave; other days, I feel crummy and don’t.”
“I always greet people walking towards me. Sometimes I get a wave or a greeting; other times I don’t,” a Pleasanton, California, Patch reader wrote. “Either way, I’m OK; people have lots on their minds these days. I respect that.”
Even unapologetic non-wavers should make an exception when children wave at or otherwise greet them, according to a East Haven, Connecticut, Patch reader. She wrote her 4-year-old son, who “says hello and talks to everyone,” is crushed when people don’t wave back at him.
“I always tell him not to change and keep saying hello,” she wrote.
A Wave Is A Smile
Go ahead and wave at your neighbors, even if they don’t wave back, several people recommended.
“I say wave,” a Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Patch reader wrote. “Let everyone know you care a little bit that you’re part of the community. It’s a simple gesture that can put a smile on the face of your neighbor that may need a pick me up.”
A Concord Patch reader wrote that waves are “sort of like smiles” — they’re free, and can mean the world to people on the receiving end.
“I wave if neighbors are out in their yards, and sometimes just as a friendly gesture in case they are looking out their windows or too ill to be outside,” she wrote.
A Monroe, Connecticut, Patch reader waves at everyone, even strangers.
“I always wave — to people walking by, driving by, waiting at a stop sign. My daughter will always ask, ‘Who is that?’ and my answer is usually, ‘I have no idea,’ ” she wrote. “But I learned a very long time ago that a wave and a smile might be the only good thing that happens to a person that day. It costs nothing and takes a split second.”
“I always wave,” a Milford, Connecticut, Patch reader wrote. “I may be one of the only people who smiled at them that day. Maybe my wave was the spark of hope they need to keep trying in this cruel world.”
The First Wave
But who waves first? For many, the answer was, “Who cares?”
“Definitely depends on the neighbor,” a Sachem Patch reader wrote. “Some I’ll wave to first, some I’ll wait for them to wave first.”
“Always wave first,” a Concord Patch reader wrote. “Be the kindness you wish to see reflected, and you’ll never go wrong.”
“If everyone waited for someone else to go first,” another Concord Patch reader wrote, “no one would be waving at all.”
“Either way is fine with me,” a Danvers, Massachusetts, Patch reader wrote. “I don’t need to be first. Just to acknowledge each other helps bring peace to the neighborhood”
The Kindness Contagion
A wave is an invitation to a friendship, according to a LaGrange, Illinois, Patch reader.
“We are wavers,” she wrote. “We meet a lot of people this way. Also, we have made friends by greeting their dogs.”
Dogs are four-legged congeniality igniters.
“As I walk my dog,” a Toms River, New Jersey, Patch reader wrote, “I try to make eye contact with other people that are walking and say, ‘How ya doing?’ “
A Salem, Massachusetts, Patch reader wrote that she doesn’t wave. But she doesn’t fall into the non-waver camp.
“I say good afternoon, good morning,” she explained. “If there is a dog, I talk more.”
“Does it count if I wave at my neighbor’s dogs?” a Lansdale Patch reader asked.
A Middleton Patch reader waves and says hello, whether she initiates a conversation or her neighbor does, and it’s starting to catch on.
“Often, I find the people who’ve never waved unless waved to eventually will begin to be the ones who initiate the greeting,” the person wrote. “More times than not, anyways, so that’s nice.”
A Riverhead, New York, Patch reader never misses a chance to interact with her neighbors, whether with a wave or a conversation.
“I physically stop what I am doing to say hello,” she wrote. “This digital age of ‘social media’ is anything but. Many of us have forgotten how to interact with other people.”
A Wallingford, Connecticut, Patch reader had the same lament, writing that “30 years ago when I was growing up, everybody waved to everybody.”
“Now I don’t at all,” the person wrote.
“I always wave. It’s nice to be neighborly,” a Milford Patch reader wrote. “Also beep when I drive out of the driveway. Kindness is contagious.”
Be careful with that, though, a Toms River Patch reader warned.
“I tried this once with a neighbor, and he took it as an invitation to come over to my home and engage in a conversation I never wanted to have,” the person wrote. “Stopped waving and acknowledging them a long time ago.”
But on the other hand, a wave might build a bridge to cultural understanding.
“Most of my neighbors are Russian,” a Forest Hills, New York City, Patch reader wrote. “I’ve learned to say hello in Russian.
About Block Talk
Block Talk is an every-other-week feature on Patch offering real-world advice from readers on how to resolve everyday neighborhood problems. In our first installment, you told us what to do about barking dogs. If you have a neighborhood etiquette question or problem you’d like for us to consider, email [email protected], with Block Talk as the subject line.
Catch up on Block Talk:
- Your Neighbor’s Dog Barks Incessantly. What Do You Do?
- What To Do When Neighbors Keep Unloading Stuff On You
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