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How Our Personal Greetings Have Changed

Written by: Patrick Wiliams, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


COVID-19 disrupted the world in a way not known for decades, and its repercussions will likely change our lives for decades to come. But don’t despair.

Some changes are good. Like learning to slow down, be creative at home, appreciate family and friends and truly connect in more personal ways.


As we navigate this novel virus, we’re re-learning how to have meaningful connections with our clients, friends, colleagues, and family without putting them at risk. This is a novel challenge. So how do we extend greetings to the people in our lives?

As a coach and counselor, I decided to take some time and learned about the kinds of greetings other cultures around the world practice – and many of us here at home that you probably took for granted. They may become meaningful practices for us in the days to come.

Namaste and other ways we can share our greetings.

Unless you’ve been living in isolation longer than the last month, you’re familiar with the word "namaste." In Hinduism, it means "I bow to the divine in you." It’s a 4,000-year-old Sanskrit word – perhaps even older – a gesture of respect and reverence. Your hands meet at your chest, and you bow to communicate your thanks to – or for – someone.

While many of us on this continent only experience the greeting at a yoga class, it’s been a cultural norm in India for centuries. It’s a sign of genuine thanks and goodwill without touch.

There is an equally meaningful greeting on the African continent that conveys a connection without a physical connection: Sawubona.

In South Africa, sawubona is the Zulu word for “Hello.” There’s a beautiful and powerful intention behind the greeting as sawubona means, “I see you, and by seeing you, I bring you into being.”

Wow, imagine being greeted like that! Wouldn’t that be more energizing than a half-hearted handshake or a forced and awkward hug?

We all have an opportunity right now to redefine social contact and the authenticity behind it. Our lives have become increasingly impersonal with the use of technology to communicate.

But in this age of ‘high tech,’ we realize now we had become extremely ‘high touch,’ as well. Touch is conspicuous in its absence during this time of COVID-19.


So let’s seize this opportunity together and practice another social norm from the Zulu language: Ubuntu. Coarsely translated, it means “humanity,” but it’s often interpreted as, “I am because we are.”

Here’s how Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained the concept:

It is about the essence of being human… It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person through other persons, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours… The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.

An anthropologist is said to have witnessed the concept of ubuntu firsthand – I’m not sure if it’s a fact or fable – when she put out a basket of fruit in a small African village, gathered the children, and challenged them to a footrace to the basket. Whoever got there first would get the most fruit.

When the anthropologist started the race, the children all joined hands and ran to the basket together. She asked why, and one child responded, “How can I be happy when others are unhappy?”

We’re in this together.

The coming months are going to challenging. We’ll be relearning how to function as more separate beings physically while still working towards common goals – at home with our loved ones, at work with our clients.

Yes, this virus is contagious – we can’t avoid that reality – but I firmly believe that positivity is contagious, too. It always has been.

I use the word enthuenza to describe my spreading enthusiasm and focusing on positive and hopeful expressions, no matter the crisis or challenge we may be facing. It doesn’t mean hiding from the reality of our situation. It means taking an opportunity to rethink our relationships. Find new ways to explore them and build upon them.

As coaches and counselors, it’s our job to navigate disruptive change for the clients under our care. Just as scientists worldwide are working to find a physical cure for this novel virus, it’s our responsibility to help guide people through the emotional changes that have come from this challenge.

We’re changing the way we greet people, and change can be good.

If you’d like to have a conversation about ways to keep a connection, I’d love to hear from you. We’re in this together.

Check out my powerful online course on Conscious Living Mastery.

Visit my websites at and

You can also connect with me through Facebook or LinkedIn.


Patrick Williams, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

As a coach for 4 decades, Pat is a founding member of the ICF and is an inaugural member of its Circle of Distinction, a Master Certified Coach, a Board-Certified Coach, and member of Forbes Coaching Council.

As an educator, he was a founding member of Harvard University’s Institute of Coaching, has taught graduate students at several notable institutions, and served as a curriculum consultant for the Coaching Certificate program at Fielding International University. And he was named Educator of the Year by the New England Educational Institute (2008).

Dr. Williams is also Past President of ACTO (Association of Coach Training Organizations), ICF board member, and Honorary VP of the International Society for Coaching Psychology.



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