How ‘good morning’ gives us Midwesterners an edge

March 11, 2017

I have never been a big fan of having interns on my team at work. It just seemed like more work for me than it was actually worth—again, to me. When I have an attitude like that, how could the experience be worth much to them?

This year, however, I’m new to a firm with a long history of hiring interns during the busy season. As the new guy, I went along with the program. And Samantha and Matt are both quality young people and excellent members of the team. I hope they are learning something in exchange.

During interviews for these jobs last fall, Samantha listed at the bottom of her resume that she enjoyed “crowd watching.” That is an awesome thing to list on a resume for a couple of reasons. First, it communicates an interest in people. I have no interest in hiring someone in a “people” business who is uninterested in people. And second, it shows she is willing to take a risk by including an interest that some might find strange.

It is not strange to me. In fact, it is one of my favorite things.

I write this column while on a trip. I love seeing new places and doing new things. But there is nothing more interesting to me than the people I see and meet. I scan crowds from start to finish when traveling. And one thing I have learned in a lifetime of crowd watching is that no crowds are the same.

And that I compare them all to those in the Heartland. 

A Facebook friend of mine who is transplanted to the East Coast posted a comment the other day about the large number of people who don’t say, “Good morning,” there. The comments were fantastic. In the Midwest, we say, “Good morning.” Think about it. I did after seeing this social media conversation. On a typical business day, I will say, “Good morning,” a minimum of 10 times, and on a busy day, it is closer to a hundred. 

I am not special, nor a serial good-morning launcher. I am actually pretty average. Try counting your good mornings for a day or two. If Indianapolis wants to measure something that is valuable, that we are good at, and that is not being measured anywhere, this is my pick.

We hold doors for one another. We say, “Thank you,” and, “Excuse me,” an awful lot also. In fact, we do this stuff so much, it sticks out at home to me when someone doesn’t. The nerve of those people!

It also identifies us because of how often this is not the case other places.

This matters and here’s why: Too often, the culture we see has a foundation based on its conflict and divisions. It is harder to fight with someone who has greeted you in a friendly way. It is easier to listen to someone who opens a conversation by wishing you well. 

Let’s count these gestures in Indianapolis. It is a bigger deal than some might think. And it is a contest we can and should win. 

I am closely watching a crowd in California at the moment—and with a critical eye. If our interns were here, I might have them keep score as part of an important sociological experiment. 

Two months are left in their tour of duty with us. Maybe before they leave, they could come up with a Fitbit or iPhone app that could track this kind of thing. And maybe the science of “good mornings” will be the next big thing.•

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