Familiar Strangers

Question:  What is polite protocol when you see someone who you recognize, but don’t really know?

We’ve all been there.  We see someone at a party, in a restaurant, at a sporting event, in a house of worship or walking in the neighborhood.  We recognize them because we see them out a lot – in those venues and others.  But, alas, we don’t really know them.  We may or may not know their names, their backgrounds, what they do professionally or where they come from.  And, yet, they feel familiar and it would seem rude to simply ignore them.  Consider these ideas:

  • A simple “hello” will do. Few people have ever shied away from a smile and a warm greeting.  At the very least, don’t pretend you didn’t see the person.  Go right up and wish them a good day!
  • My name is… Could it be that it is finally time for a formal introduction? Though it may feel awkward since you see one another relatively frequently, my guess is that if you lead with, “Hi, there.  We see each other all the time.  I thought I’d come over for an official introduction.  My name is ­­­­­­­­­­­­­______________,” you will be delightedly received.
  • Have we met before? On the other hand, when you are not sure whether you have been formally introduced, it may feel uncomfortable to make the first move since you don’t want to come off as forgetful or arrogant.  Just own up to it.  By saying, “Hi, I feel as if we have met before; please remind me of your name.  I’m ­­­­­­­­­­­­­______________,” I suspect your counterpart will be elated and relieved.
  • A wink and a smile. If you can’t bring yourself to cross the room to engage the individual, when the moment strikes, a glance and a knowing nod may be all that is required to establish a connection with another.  A friend recently told me about locking eyes and sharing a nod with someone she recognized at church, but didn’t know, when the pastor said something particularly meaningful during his sermon.

What do you do when you see a familiar stranger?  Have any tips you’d like to offer to the CLC Community?  We’d all love to hear from you.  Nobody’s a stranger here.

2 thoughts to “Familiar Strangers”

  1. The best is when you see someone you know that you know, but can’t remember their name. I use that chance to introduce anyone that I’m with – a spouse, friend, co-worker, whatever it may be… and that person generally knows if I don’t give the person’s name I can’t recall. “Hey there! Can I introduce you to Jennifer?”

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