People often say goodbye when they are leaving home for work, moving to a new location, or leaving a social event. If someone is changing their job, school, or address, they may let their colleagues know.
Not saying goodbye when you leave is generally regarded as rude. Saying goodbye serves as an essential factor in linguistic routines of politeness in most cultures and helps to improve social interactions in the long and short term.
Saying goodbye whenever you can help to build positive relationships with other people around you.
If In Doubt, Say Goodbye
Whether you’re leaving a club, a job or fellow students after a course has ended, if you’re in doubt, say goodbye to at least a few colleagues. At least that way, you’ll have left yourself in good favor with a few people.
Often, people will indicate through eye contact, an expectant expression, or another body language, that they would want you to tell them goodbye.
For example, if you’re packing up your goods at the supermarket, a shopper with who you had a 10-minute sports conversation, may suddenly appear and glance at you. In that situation, you could just nod to acknowledge them. Although the interaction was fairly brief, the other person, through their non-verbal clues, may be suggesting that they want that kind of acknowledgment.
Sometimes a simple smile or wave will suffice. People are different and some people will resent it if you don’t say or do anything. It’s better to be safe and say, “All the best for the future” or “Take care of yourself”, than to not say goodbye.
Upbringing Dictates That Saying Goodbye Is Polite
In many households, it’s considered basic good manners to tell someone goodbye when you leave. This isn’t even discussed or formally taught. Children see their parents telling each other goodbye from an early age and they simply adopt the practice.
Even babies are taught to wave. Dads and moms teach them to wave goodbye to other babies, their pets, and their pediatrician. Even an aunt or uncle may feel snubbed, or feel like they are snubbing the baby if they don’t wave goodbye to the baby.
What children observe in families is reinforced later on at school. In kindergarten, the end of the school day may be marked by singing a favorite song, after which, toddlers are told goodbye by their teachers. When their parents come to pick them up, they wave goodbye to their friends.
Therefore, as a teacher who is changing jobs, for example, you should be a role model and explain to students that you will be leaving them.
Several parents intentionally teach their children to say goodbye, to help them grasp the concept of separation. For example, they may say a quick goodbye when running to the store or going to work.
Separation anxiety may be observed in children from as early as eight months. Saying goodbye to children helps them to understand that parents are separate individuals.
Enhance Domestic Relationships
Across the world, domestic relationships are enhanced with greetings. These may be both verbal and non-verbal. These are used to acknowledge the presence of other human beings and show respect. We even acknowledge our pets and often, they may walk to the door to tell us goodbye.
Some husbands and wives who have different expectations about whether they should say goodbye when they leave each other for short periods may have disputes related to that. One partner may feel hurt that the other simply drove or walked away without even letting them know they were going somewhere.
It’s usually better to let your spouse know that you’re leaving. Even if they know you have to head for work, give them a quick kiss.
Having a goodbye ritual as a couple strengthens your relationship. It shows regard for the other person and if your ritual is exciting enough, it keeps your spouse on your mind, so they can’t wait to see you again.
People have a tendency to model their responses to others based on how they are treated. If you’re a boss and you have a tendency to leave meetings with your staff without some sort of farewell, they will model your behavior. The way you treat them will also show up eventually in how they treat each other and your clients.
You may have noticed that some organizations seem to have developed a polite, customer-centric culture. That often doesn’t come just as a result of training.
Quite often, the managers at the top model respectful behavior by greeting staff, wishing them a good day when they part ways, and using other small courtesies that enhance social interaction.
Leaving a Social Gathering
When you attend a bible study or a party, you may want to say goodbye to a few of the people with who you engaged while you were there. If people are quietly praying, you may only want to tap one person on the shoulder and wave before leaving. Similarly, if most of your friends are distracted by dancing, you may only want to wave to one person before you leave.
Some people don’t like being interrupted when they’re talking or dancing or doing anything else that they enjoy. You’ll have to be sensitive to the environment and the nature of the people you’re with.
For safety reasons, it’s usually a good idea to let other people at a party know you’re leaving and that you haven’t come to harm in some way.
If you frequently go out with the same group of people, they may come to realize that you have a habit of simply leaving without telling anyone. If you are a little tipsy and fall on your way from the restroom, no one will check on you. They’ll just assume that you’ve left.
If you’ve been invited to a celebration, you should at least say goodbye and thank you to your host when you’re leaving.
Greetings Have Social Meanings
In cultures where saying goodbye is expected, some individuals may withhold their goodbye as a means of punishing others. It’s a passive way of showing aggression because it’s intended as a snub.
The individual on the other end may choose to interpret it as a snub or they may just dismiss it as the way the other individual likes to do things.
If you know another person likes to be told goodbye when someone leaves, it doesn’t hurt to do it. Don’t leave your actions open to interpretation. Make it clear that you’re interested in doing things that show respect for others.
The actions you take or the words you speak may vary from one generation to another or from one culture to another. However, the act of greeting someone when you see them and saying goodbye when you leave them are typical.
Greetings may be atypical in situations where it’s not safe to give or receive them. If someone may be hurt physically or emotionally by giving a greeting, they may withhold it. If saying goodbye may result in you being verbally abused, it may be wise to avoid saying it.
If you typically shake hands at the end of a business meeting but you’re not comfortable doing so because of the situation, don’t do it.
For example, you may be in a country where shaking hands is discouraged because that helps to spread a virus. In that case, although you may be uncomfortable with not shaking hands, everyone should understand that you’re not trying to be rude.
Similarly, if everyone in your culture was accustomed to kissing on the cheek as a way of saying goodbye, it would be healthier to avoid doing so if it could spread the flu.
Variations Based On Context
A study by Jenny Nilsson et all showed that there may be pragmatic variations in greetings. People adjust the way they greet others and what they say, in response to the context.
For example, if two salespeople are rushing from a meeting and are late for two different events, instead of saying goodbye, they may quickly exchange information that they’ll both need at the events they’re going to next.
Brown and Levinson’s model of politeness reinforces the idea that where possible, it’s better to do things that build social connections. Even if you’re planning to leave a job or a neighborhood, do so in a way that leaves other people with a pleasant memory. Saying goodbye does that because it communicates respect on your part.
People say goodbye in different ways. They may get together for a final supper, kiss someone or even see their visitors off to the airport. Researchers refer to this as having a well-rounded ending.
Saying goodbye gives a sense of closure. It helps you to move forward to the next stage of your day, your next client, or your next meeting. It removes the feeling of having loose ends. Even in instances where the recipients don’t seem to care, saying goodbye can make you feel better.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.