What To Say When You’re Not Sure If You’ve Met Someone Before

What To Say When You’re Not Sure If You’ve Met Someone Before

It’s so awkward: you run into someone at a party/work event/shopping centre, and you can’t remember whether or not you’ve met them before (let alone what their name is). What should you say?

Friends picture from Shutterstock

This suggestion (from our awesome commercial editor Rae) is the best one I’ve ever heard for dealing with that dilemma: Good to see you.

That works whether it’s someone you do know, someone you’ve chatted to on Twitter but never encountered in real life, or someone who you’ve never actually met. It’s friendly, it’s non-specific, and it lets the conversation move forward.

I will so be using this in the future. It doesn’t get you round the problem of actually remembering the person’s name, but for that the compliment strategy works well.


  • To me ‘good to see you’ implies you have met before. How about just ‘Hi – have we met before?’. It doesn’t have to be awkward – we can’t all remember all the people we’ve ever met (unless of course you’ve actually met numerous times, in which case you’ll look like a dick).

    • This has the bonus affect of breaking any awkwardness – you get to be apologetic and and they get to forgive you. This more often than not creates the bridge as you discuss the shared history and allows for other conversation to continue.

      ‘Good to see you’ is a closed statement which is better used when you’re not actually happy to see someone and would prefer to just find the nearest alcoholic beverage and also explains why you don’t remember the person you’ve just been introduced to for the 5th time.

    • Yeah. You only need to get the reply “I’m George. We’ve met 3 times” in a group situation, and you never use that again.

      For some people, meeting people on a daily basis who you’ve no idea if you’ve met once, twice or eight times before is a reality. Here’s a few tips:

      Good sales people always greet people by name.
      1. Avoid this with: “G’day Mate”, or “Hey, how ya doin?”
      Use this greeting with everyone, all the time. Get out of the habit of greeting people you know by name. Leave using someone’s name 3 times to those in sales. Once you start greeting everyone without your name, it’s natural and passable.

      Good sales people always remember people’s history and build on common ground
      2. You can avoid this with: generic small talk
      Sports, Weather, News, Immediate environment, a funny short story about yourself
      Inane observations aren’t great conversation… but they get you through the first 10 seconds, and hopefully the other party can lead the conversation from there. It pays to be interested in something newsworthy so you can fill 30 seconds of conversation without knowing if this stranger is actually interested or not. Just get as good as you can at letting them divert the conversation to something interesting to them, and run with it.

      A good sales person uses the person’s name again while saying goodbye
      3. Avoid: Great to see you again, or It was a pleasure to meet you.
      In business, you can sometimes get away with: “Thanks for your time.”
      The rest of the time, try the following: “See you soon.”, “great to see you” , “till next time” , “thanks for the chat”, “you have fun now”, “Catch ya”, “Cheers”.

  • “Good to see you” definitely implies that you’ve met them before. Think about it, if you were meeting someone for the first time you wouldn’t say “Good to see you”.

  • Nobody used “hey stranger!”…? It works effectively because if;
    a) you have met them but don’t really remember them they take it in jest and will likely point out it has been a while since you last met
    b) you haven’t met them they wonder if they’ve met you and will likely ask “have we met?” and you can jokingly say “haha, no, that’s why I said stranger!”

    Ice. Broken.

  • Socially I always go with – ‘I get the impression we’ve met briefly before.’ If they tell me all about it, I apologize and let them know that they made an impression despite my goldfish memory, or if they say they don’t think we’ve met, I just say I must be thinking of some movie star or model or someone (with a pinch of humor to diffuse the awkwards). Either way I’m forgiven and they feel good.

    In business I play it straight – ‘Have we met?’ this puts it on them if we have and if we haven’t it’s a neutral game and we do intros.

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