Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Power of Greetings

This was the 4th article I published in April, 2007 when my blog was brand new. This concept still works for me today so I decided to edit and republish again. At the bottom of the article is a "feedback" link. Please let me know your thoughts.

Want to increase the number of good dances you have? It's easier than you think if you become a recognized face in your favorite club(s). If you're just starting, set yourself up for success much sooner. You can do this the first week you start club dancing before you master the basic footwork. Of course, I'm assuming you also do some work toward improving your dancing over time. If you constantly improve your dancing and expand your face recognition, some nights you'll feel like you own the place.

First things first: Dancing is a social event for most people. The guy with a recognizable face has a huge advantage when asking someone to dance. When you walk into a club, who do you greet? Your friends? People you've danced with? Someone from a previous class or from work? I take a different approach.

My Dad got me started with this concept: Everybody is important and should be treated with respect. He put this into practice by saying hello to the checker at the grocery store, the bank, his waiter, postman, guy driving the garbage truck and said hi to the person pumping gas (in the last century, someone actually pumped gas for you!). He didn't always know their name, but he would say hi to almost everybody, especially people others tended to ignore.

When I walk into a club, I say hi to the person taking the cover, the bus boys, servers, musicians and every dancer I recognize or think I recognize, both men and women. I generally learn the names of the security people and people taking money. I say "hi", "hello" and/or "good to see you again" to almost every dancer I've ever seen in the past (and some I haven't, just to see their reaction...)

Funny thing is, when I say hi they may not immediately recognize me. They may not remember meeting me in the past but since I'm saying hello, I get bookmarked in their mind and later they start saying hi to me. Soon we are having conversations and/or they are introducing me to their favorite dancers and their friends.

If I've seen them once, I take the initiative and say "Hi, good to see you again!" or something similar. Sometimes it's too loud so I do the old "head nod" (like saying "yes") with a little hand wave with the "good to see you look" on my face. (I avoid hugging the guys; they get the handshake, while the ladies all get hugs like we are old friends...)

A strange thing happens over time. I walked into an LA club the other night and I must have had 20 people greet me within the first 5 minutes of being in the club. I shook hands with 8 or 10 guys and got hugs from at least 10 women. I felt like a celebrity. I suspect some people who didn't know me thought I was important, since so many people greeted me as I walked around.

If you want to have some fun, say hi to people who you don't know, and watch their reaction. I get hugs from some women and I'm thinking, "Who is this person?" (Sure, it could be worse...) I've done it myself: Since I teach quite a bit, others may have attended one of my classes but I don't remember them. If they act like they know me, I play along and then figure out who they are... and I certainly remember them next time and greet them warmly.

When I ask someone to dance, I get turned down less than many other guys in my regular clubs. That's because I said something to those follows in the past and established a very small social connection. (I've had plenty of turn-downs at newer clubs; I'll discuss that in the future.) I also get more women asking me to dance than most guys. I'm a decent lead, and since I'm friendlier than most, I suspect I'm more approachable...

The more people you greet, the larger your pool of potential dance partners AND it's more fun for everyone. People like interacting with people they know and turning down someone you greeted earlier isn't the norm.

Just say "Hi"! And practice it everyplace you go until it's a habit. You'll be amazed with the results.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
-Groucho Marx


  1. This is so true. My best friend is a country dancer, and when he gets to the club (where he is a regular) the first thing he does, is go around and shake hands and greet all the others people that hang out in the area that the dancers tend to congreagate in. As a result he is on the dance floor pretty much all night long.

  2. Dear Don,
    I really enjoyed your article on the importance to greet people at the clubs. Even though I am a rather shy person, I do try to greet people at the dance class, for instance, even though I don't really know them. And sure enough, the next time I see them, they open up and say hello too. It actually snow balls, and gets everyone friendly. Good advice to those who keep their "hellos" to small groups. Dancing is fun, and unites us. That's why we're all there after all. Let's keep that feeling going ...
    Akari, from Montreal, Canada

  3. I totally agree on this. My parents also instilled a "talk to everyone" culture on our family (and one I pass on to my own children!), and it has served me well for many years now. Just recently I returned from the Puerto Rico salsa congress (my first) where I bought one over-priced hotel beer, drank for free the rest of the event, and got offered the staff-discount rate on the hotel anytime I want to return by one of the bartenders I befriended! In addition, I danced tons, exchanged emails with many people (many of whom don't speak English!) and had in general an absolute blast.

  4. Good article. Should you make eye contact before saying hi?

  5. This is an excellent idea.

    Can you try it at a congress where you don't know anybody ... and are there any special precautions we ladies should take?


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero