Greeting Etiquette 8 Rules: How To Greet Someone Best

The crucial greeting etiquette rules. The appropriate ways to greet someone when you meet in person. Follow these rules to be polite and well-liked.

What greeting etiquette is

Greeting etiquette is the set of rules to properly greet someone when you meet in person. Such rules include:

  • When you should greet others.
  • The appropriate greetings.
  • How to adjust the greetings to the person or the occasion.
  • How to deal with someone who does not greet you.

Everyone should respect greetings etiquette to look polite, respect others, and be well-liked.

General greeting etiquette principles

The main principle of greeting etiquette is to acknowledge the other person. Every greeting etiquette mistake can be forgiven, as long as you greet someone and let them know that you noticed their presence. Failing to do so is a major social etiquette breach, as it signals a lack of respect for the other person.

rules to greet someone

Greeting etiquette rules

1) Always greet others

This is the one greeting etiquette rule that no one should ever break.

Greeting someone is the most basic but crucial form of civility. It shows that we recognize others as individuals that are worthy of our attention. By greeting others, we implicitly communicate that we are going to follow the other civility rules too. Thus, even if you do not know or even do not like the other person, you should still acknowledge their presence.

2) Acknowledge new arrivals

Every time someone enters a room or a space you are in, you should greet them. Even a minimal gesture is appropriate, such as a nod or a smile. Do the same when someone sits near you in a public venue, such as in a restaurant or on public transportation. If you are doing something else, such as talking on your phone, stop for a second to greet the new arrivals.

On some occasions, such as in a restaurant, you can also greet someone by standing. Standing is a way of showing respect and it is very appropriate with seniors, female guests, or notable guests.

3) Greet everyone when you enter a room 

When you enter a room or any space, you should greet the people that are already in it. When you enter a large space, such as an airplane, it is sufficient to greet only the people who are going to seat near you. If you enter a limited space with many unknown persons, such as an elevator, it is sufficient to use one generic greeting to greet everyone, such as “good morning”.

4) Use greeting etiquette correct forms

The appropriate greetings depend on multiple factors. Such as the person that you are greeting, how well you know the person, and the occasion.

Formal greetings vs. informal greetings

Use informal greetings when you know the person well and you are in a very informal setting. Such as a drinking party or an hiking tour.

  • Hello.
  • Hi.
  • Hey.
  • Good to see you. Nice to see you.
  • What’s up?
  • How are you? how is it going?

Prefer formal greetings when you do not know the person well or at all, and when you are in formal occasions. Such as at work or in formal venue.

  • Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening.
  • How do you do?
  • “Hello” can be used in semi-formal occasions too.

Appropriate tone and language

When greeting someone, it is best to prefer a neutral tone of voice. Speak softly and not in a loud voice. Use appropriate language. Avoid ample or abrupt gestures or movements. Try to keep neutral or positive body language.

Use of first or last name

You can greet someone you know by saying their first or last name too. Such as “Hello Paul” or “Good morning Sarah”. Saying only the first or last name works but it could sound too formal and even cold.

5) Adapt the greeting to the person

It is perfectly appropriate to adapt the greeting to the person. For example, it could be appropriate to use an informal greeting with a young person even on a formal occasion. Vice versa, it could be most appropriate to use a formal greeting with seniors even on informal occasions.

Similarly, the most appropriate greeting depends on your relationship, actual or desidered, with the person. Use informal greetings or positive body language to signal the other person that you are open to a more informal relationship.

6) Always respond to greetings

When someone greets you, you should always respond. It is perfect etiquette to mirror their greeting in tone, style, and language. Not returning a greeting is very rude.

However, do not wait for the other person to greet you. It is best to greet people as soon as you notice or cross them.

7) Do not get upset if someone does not greet you

If someone does not greet you, or does not greet you back, do not get upset. They may be unaware of basic etiquette, or they may be aloof or concentrated on something else. It is best not to overthink it or assign excessive importance to it.

8) Adapt greeting etiquette to each situation

The general greeting etiquette rules apply to every situation or public place. However, some occasions or venues call for additional rules or extra care.

Greeting etiquette at someone else’s house

When you visit someone else’s house as a guest, you should greet everybody. Start with the hosts, then greet all the guests as you meet them. When new people arrive, it is polite to go toward them to greet them.

Greeting etiquette at work or in the office

At work, always greet customers as soon as you meet them, or as they enter the room or the venue.

Properly greet your manager and coworkers when you meet them for the first time on a given day. When you meet them again during the day, a simple gesture, such as a smile, is sufficient as a greeting. When you enter a meeting room, always greet everyone in the meeting.

Greeting etiquette in public transportation

When you are in public transportation for short trips, such as the subway or a bus, greeting others is not required. For long-distance travel, such as train or airplane, it is good etiquette to greet anyone who is going to seat near you.

When you enter a taxi, Uber, Lyft, or similar service, you should always greet the driver.

Greeting etiquette in hotels, bed & breakfasts, and hostels

In large hotels, you do not need to always greet the staff, especially when they are busy. However, in smaller hotels of bed & breakfasts, it is polite to greet the staff when you enter or leave the premises.

Hostels are very informal venues with a community vibe. Thus, it is best to always greet the staff and your roommates too if you are sharing a room.

Greeting someone in restaurants, cafes, and bars

In restaurants, always greet every guest who is sitting at your table. It is very polite to stand when someone joins your table.

If you sit at a shared table, you should greet the other guests sitting at the same table, even if you do not know them.

Schools and universities

At schools and universities, students should greet their classmates when they enter the class. However, this is not necessary or even appropriate in large classes or auditoriums. Students are expected to greet the teachers or professors as soon as they enter the class.

How to deal with someone who does not greet you

If someone does not respect greeting etiquette, do not get upset. Pretend that nothing has happened and move on.

However, do not give up. If someone is rude, this is not a good reason to be rude too. Stick to your good manners and greet them again the next time you meet.

greeting etiquette worst mistakes

Greeting etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst greeting etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Not greeting someone.
  • 8/10. Not greeting back.
  • 6/10. Using an inappropriate form of greeting.