How to Handle Sticky Situations
The Etiquette of Flustering Meetings
Situation: You find yourself walking alongside a casual acquaintance and you don’t want to chat all the way to your destination.
Solution: If you can do it discreetly and naturally, turn a corner or “duck into a coffee shop or public restroom,” says Leil Lowndes, author of How to Talk to Anyone ($17, amazon.com). But if that isn’t an option, it’s best simply to bring up a topic you enjoy talking about―something that elicits more interesting comments than last night’s TV shows. Excited about an upcoming vacation? Ask the person about her last trip or for a book recommendation for your flight.
Situation: You see someone you think you recognize but aren’t sure if he recognizes you, so you don’t know whether to say hello.
Solution: “If you pass someone on the street, you can let it go without talking,” says Jodi R. Smith. “But if you’re sitting in a doctor’s office or at a party, say something.” Start with your name, followed by one piece of information about yourself. Saying “I’m Clare. I went to Vanderbilt, and you look very familiar. Have we met?” is a better option than interrogating the person. If you’re fairly certain that you met the person in a specific place and just aren’t sure that he remembers you, “that can be a natural opening for a conversation,” says Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave: A Guide to Modern Manners for the Socially Challenged ($15, amazon.com).