Good morning Malaysia — Jayakumar Gurusamy

JAN 15 — A greeting is an exchange of expression which may be in the form of verbal exchange or gesture between people. Greeting practices differ globally. They may be due to cultural, social etiquette, taboos, religious considerations or the nature of relationship between various parties.

I vividly recollect my good old school days especially my primary education. We used to get ticked off and occasionally receive a spank or two for forgetting to greet good morning to our dear teachers during the first contact with them in the mornings. The mantra of verbalising pleasant greetings especially in the mornings instilled on us or due to the painful reflections from the spankings resulted in many of us carrying on with the polite salutations till today.

I happen to interact with some school children in the age range of 8 to 10 years old. I was keen to understand the culture of greetings in the schools these days. When I threw a question to them; do they greet their teachers at schools in the mornings? Most of them sheepishly admitted in a negative manner. They pointed out it was pointless. According to them, it did not matter whether they greeted their teachers good morning or otherwise. Either way, the responses from the teachers were expressionless. Off course, this might just be an isolated cohort of students that I spoke to which may not be a fair reflection of the true situation in the country. Undeniably, the parents have the biggest role in moulding their children in the right manner to greet everyone in material of race, colour, religion or creed.

It's a simple greeting, but the power of it is profound. A study published in the Journal of Positive Behaviour found positive greetings at the door of classrooms increased students' academic engagement by 20% and decreased disruptive classroom behavior by 9%.

As a doctor, I am often the initiator of the salutation. Sometimes, my patients do beat me to it!  I often begin with phatic salutation like “good morning” as an opening salutation, and then proceeding on with salutations like ‘How are you and your family doing?” or ‘’How do you do?’’ Studies have shown patients have preference with doctors who initiate greetings with them especially in the morning. These types of greetings constitute an important way of establishing the therapeutic relationship with patient and as such should be given appropriate attention. The first few moments of conversation are critical in setting the tone of the patient-doctor professional relationship. It assists to establish the rapport and helps the patient to feel comfortable.

Science has shown social interaction like greeting one another assist us to lead a healthier, joyous, safer and longer life. Yet too many of us are missing out on chances for connection. History will tell us greetings in some form or other has been present since time immemorial.  Even when we look at our ancestors way back to the stone age, people found novel ways to greet and connect with each other daily. This behavior was for social and perhaps to stay on as one united group for shelter, survival and protection to fend off from the predators.

Fast forward today, many of us tend to stay disconnected with each other in the physical sense. The greetings are more of virtual in nature. In the mornings, we often receive through the various social media platforms the smiley emoticons or quotes of the day.  These are perfectly acceptable in moderation. Ironically, when we leave our homes and move about in our daily activities or work, we put on a stone face and hardly greet our acquaintances when we meet them for the first time in the mornings.

To start off the day in the morning with a greeting when one meets a friend, colleague, acquaintance or any person on work matters is rather a pleasant commencement of the day. It makes sense to greet our familiar contacts in the morning. Often, we encounter expressionless faces.  As days go by, many of us will note this good morning greeting seems to be waning off. Quite often, one may encounter a familiar person just walking pass you in the morning without a verbal greeting, gesture or even the raise of the eyebrows.

However, what strikes me most is greetings is more prevalent within the similar communities. After slightly more than six decades of independence, it is rather disheartening to see we are still compartmentalising ourselves based on our religion or culture. Worst still, acknowledging the other kind of the same religion or race and ignoring the rest. It is understandable every culture has it’s own manner to acknowledge the other. However, just a simple verbal greeting of good morning or in any other acceptable manner in any language suffices to start the day. There is certainly no harm or malice in it. It is a pleasure to see happy rather than some sulking faces in the morning.

The bottom line is we should strive to work diligently, be happy and laugh. After all, remember laughter is the best medicine for a healthful life.

We are Malaysians, one for all and all for one. The next time you bump into any acquaintance or a friend in the morning, do initiate the pleasant salutation. Make a pleasant day for yourself and the other for a better nation.

Good morning, Malaysia!

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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