Strengthen Those “Smile Nod or Wave” Relationships

We all have them.  Relationships in or outside work that we wish were something more. But instead we’re stuck in a Smile, Nod, or Wave relationship.   I call it giving each other S.N.O.W jobs.

Does this sound familiar?  Someone moves in down the street, and for some reason there are no introductions in the first few days.  Now it feels too awkward to introduce yourself.   So you smile, nod and wave as they drive or walk by.  They smile, nod and wave back.  Often enthusiastically.  And that’s as far as the relationship goes.  For months. Even years.

Or there is the cashier at the shop where you get coffee every morning.  You see her every day, and in the glow of mutual recognition you smile and exchange “Good Morning” and maybe a “Hey, How Ya Doing?” But that’s about it.  You wish you knew her name, but you’ve been in a Smile, Nod or Wave Relationship for months now and it would be really weird to formally introduce yourself now.

Or maybe you did have introductions, but you’ve forgotten their name.  Now it’s much easier to stay in a Smile, Nod or Wave Relationship than to interact further and run the risk of being exposed as a disrespectful name-blanker.

Of course, with some people a Smile, Nod, or Wave Relationship is as far as you want to go.  You keep giving them a S.N.O.W job because they keep giving one to you.  But face it – it’s not all of them.  We all have people we regularly run into where just knowing their name would make the relationship more meaningful and fun.   And maybe even lead to interesting conversations and new opportunities.

Stop reading now and make that mental list of the people with whom you’re stuck in a Smile, Nod, or Wave Relationship.  Someone you often see in the elevator.  A receptionist, sales clerk, or cashier at your usual stops.  Another student on campus. The parent standing next to you at your kid’s soccer game.

I’m serious.  Make the list. I’ll wait.

Then ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen if you broke the endless cycle of S.N.O.W jobs and took the initiative to introduce (or re-introduce) yourself.  A brief moment of embarrassment?  Some awkward opening chit chat?

Given you will likely see this person again and again, isn’t it worth the risk?  And if the other person is giving you S.N.O.W jobs too, isn’t it just possible that they might be open to and even appreciate the gesture?

Don’t know what to say to break the ice?  Here are few ideas:

  • “Hey, I see you every morning but for some reason we’ve never been formally introduced.  My name is…”
  • “I’m sorry that I didn’t come over and introduce myself when you first arrived.  Welcome!  My name is…”
  • “Thanks. I see you so often and appreciate your help, and I’d like to at least know your name.  I’m….. “
  • “Hey, I’d like to re-introduce myself. I know we’ve met before, but I’m sorry – I’ve got an awful memory and have somehow forgotten your name.  I’m…”
  • “Hey, we must be in sync – I keep seeing you everywhere.  I’d like to at least introduce myself.  My name is …”

For the past 20 years I’ve studied the newcomer experience, and I’ve interviewed many people about their S.N.O.W relationships.  Usually these unsatisfying relationships start when you or the other person is new in some way.  But they don’t have to continue like this forever.

Again, you probably don’t want to build stronger connections with all of your S.N.O.W relationships.  But for those you do, imagine the potential benefits, recognize the minimal risk, and simply go for it.

Break the cycle of S.N.O.W jobs and introduce yourself.


This was originally published on my LinkedIn page on August 10, 2015. Click here for the original post.

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  • Chuck Calendine

    Excellent ideas regarding the many possible SNOW relationships in our lives, Mr. Rollag.

    I only recently discovered your focus on new relationships through your article entitled, “How To Get Over Your Fear In New Situations.”

    The article was a “gateway moment” for me at crucial point in a relationship/leadership development course I was involved in at the time and helped me tremendously.

    I hope to acquire your book soon and study it.

    I also hope you will continue to post such blog articles. They are excellent!


    Chuck Calendine

    • Keith Rollag


      Sorry I didn’t get this posted quickly, but great to hear the article was helpful! I’ve been doing a lot of book promotion but look forward to getting back to regular blogging soon.

      Thanks again for your comments!


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