"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
June 20, 2013
Encouraging a Friendly Welcome
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


The ladies who work in the office of my child’s school are not friendly. When I walk into the office, they continue their conversations, or keep their eyes glued to their computer screens, or otherwise ignore me. (It’s not just me — they ignore everyone.) If I need help, I have to interrupt one of them, which is very uncomfortable.

I think it’s important that our school be welcoming, so I went to the principal and told him that I thought the office ladies were being rude, and asked if he could please ask them to greet people who enter the office. He defended the ladies, and I felt like a nag. I don’t think he’ll want to talk to me in the future.

Is there a better way I could have handled this?


Yes. There is.

It was not wrong of you to take your concerns to the school principal. He is, after all, responsible for the school and the impression its staff leaves on parents, students, and members of the public. I happen to agree with you that when you enter an office, especially at a school, someone should greet you.

But I’m afraid your approach made you seem like you were complaining of an offense instead of offering a useful suggestion. It was therefore very natural for the principal to defend the people who work under his supervision instead of responding to the substance of your suggestion.

It also made the conversation about you and how offended you felt instead of a simple way the school could be improved. And sadly, it made you look easily offended and a bit spoiled. Because in truth, you should not allow yourself to be offended and upset when a person in an office does not greet you. It’s not worth it.

Instead, observe calmly and silently to yourself that the person’s behavior was rude and let it go.

When you make a complaint, it is useful to say several positive things before you say the negative thing. It makes the conversation less adversarial if you emphasize points on which you and the other person agree, things for you appreciate that the other person has done, and things you think are praiseworthy in the other person. And the other person is more likely to listen to what you have to say.

In your case, you might have approached the principal and said, “Good morning, Mr. Katsohis! How are you? I’m Gretchen Anctil. My daughter Greta is in Mr. Dubois’s fourth-grade class.” Shake hands or allow him to respond politely.

Then say, “I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your ‘Lunch with the Principal’ program. It was such a treat for Greta to eat lunch with you the other day. She really enjoyed it.” Again, let him respond politely.

Then continue, “Greta is having a wonderful year. We really appreciate all you do.” He will probably say “Thank you.”

At this point, you can make your suggestion. “I was wondering. When I come into the school office, it’s usually pretty difficult for me to get the staff’s attention. I was wondering if one of the staff could be designated to greet people and ask what they need. I think it would be helpful — the staff are really very knowledgeable once you get talking to them, but it’s hard to get their attention.”

The principal will probably thank you for your suggestion with a non-committal comment. Don’t expect any promises. Smile, say good-bye, and go on your way.

Then, start greeting the office ladies every time you enter the office. Learn their names, and say, “Hello, Meagan,” or “Hi Geri. How are you today?” every time you see them. Do it with a sincere, sunny smile.

Don’t prattle on — just model the kind of greeting you’d like to get.

It might not work, but it will be a fun game for you to see if you can get them to smile and greet you in return.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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