A Run-in With a Long-Lost “Pal”
If you barely have enough time for the friends you have now, be wary of taking on someone you haven’t missed that much and nip this encounter in the bud―nicely, of course. During the initial meeting, show some enthusiasm―“Great to see you!”―but don’t overdo it. “Don’t even vaguely suggest having lunch if your gut feeling is ‘Get me out of here,’” says conversation expert Margaret Shepherd.
If the person insists on a ‘date” and keeps calling or e-mailing to follow up, Shepherd suggests spelling out the terms you can live with: location (close to you), duration (short), purpose (strictly personal, or is there a business motive?). Also, be direct about anything you don’t want to discuss. (“I’d love to catch up on what you’re doing, but if we’re going to talk about that horrible personnel manager one more time, let’s call it off.”) Meet with the person once, and keep in mind that you don’t have to see him or her again if your opinion hasn’t changed.