There are instances in life where we want to approach someone from long ago and contact them to touch base. Sometimes we are inspired by a memory or because we see them in public. There are always nuances and etiquette involved with such situations. So, how do you tell someone you remember them?
First, check whether the person in question is currently approachable. If so, indicate the place and occasion where you have met before and emphasize what a positive surprise this spontaneous encounter is for you. If the other person looks rather irritated and exudes little interest in talking, leave it at that.
Always remain friendly, polite, and honest. In addition, you should also respect the space and privacy of others. The last thing you want to do is take away someone’s courage or break their heart.
A look at the posts and interactions on social media shows that this courtesy is not very common. Therefore, it is now more important than ever to show kindness and courtesy to everyone we meet.
Why Courteousness Is Important
Studies show how social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have lowered the standards of social conduct. [1,2,3] These have helped to create a culture that’s rude, inconsiderate, and filled with impoliteness.
Unfortunately, some of the same research indicates a transfer of this behavior into the physical world. People are thoughtless and selfish; you don’t need a study or an expert to prove it to you.
Just take a look through all the selfie videos of people experiencing violence at the hands of another. No one does anything to intervene or stop the offense. But they all know enough to turn on their smartphone cameras. It’s a clear indication of social decay and the only way to fight against it is to do the opposite.
So, if you want to address someone because you remember them, you can do a lot to avoid these mistakes with small courtesies. It aids in removing social awkwardness and opens up lines of communication.
Telling Someone You Remember Them
Sometimes, nostalgia strikes us or we see someone in public we once briefly met. It’s in these moments that we may feel compelled to approach them, either through social media, phone calls, email or just walking up to them. But, you can’t just be an oaf about it, especially if you’re not certain they remember you.
If you are calling or emailing for nostalgia’s sake, consider the following before proceeding:
- What was your relationship with the person you’re remembering? Were they a coworker, friend, acquaintance or a romantic interest?
- Did anything occur the last time you spoke? Did you stop talking because of a negative interaction, an official breakup or did you only fall away?
- How long ago did you last see or speak to this person? Are you sure their phone number and email are the same?
- Considering anything else that may have occurred in the past, are you certain this person wants to see or hear from you?
Potential Scenarios Where It Might Not Be good
There are some distinctions to take note of in regards to the last question above. In certain situations, the person may not be happy to receive your message, even though they have nothing against you. Perhaps the time you spent together all those years ago is something they’d rather leave in the past.
For the sake of example, let’s say they were in a relationship with your friend and it ended badly. While they were always friendly with you, hearing from you may not be a healthy event. It may bring back trauma and feelings they may not yet be ready to face.
Instances Where It Might Be Great
But, perhaps they were an old college friend and you have nothing but good memories. Then, it might be an excellent idea to send them an email or a phone call. You could also approach them on social media if that’s where you found them.
Sending Emails, Phone Calls or Social Media Messaging
When opting for this kind of communication, you want to exude humility and kindness. Allow these to be at the forefront of your efforts. This will be your greatest protection against unintentionally offending or upsetting someone.
For emails and online messaging, keep your note short and polite. If they respond, then you can write a little longer message.
For starting, let it be brief. If there’s an input field for a subject, such as an email, write something simple and memorable. Be brief but also to the point.
In the body of the text say something such as:
How are you? It’s been so long, I do hope you remember me. My name is [your name] and I was recently reminiscing over our time together during [college, childhood, relationship, etc]. I just wanted to drop a quick note and to tell you hello and that I’ve been thinking about you.
If you have a moment, I’d love to talk to you or go have a cup of coffee sometime. Regardless, I hope you and yours are happy and well.
[your name or whatever you write for closing emails/messages]
After Hitting the “Send” Button
After you hit send, wait for the person to respond. Of course, if you get the mailer daemon, you have your answer about whether their email still works or not. But, if the message or email goes through and you never get a response, leave the individual alone.
Understand, they got your message and, for whatever their reasons are, they simply don’t want to speak with you. Please respect their privacy and don’t bombard them with emails and messages; this will not glean the results you seek.
Also, consider that not everyone may spend as much time online as you do. Therefore, you may not hear from them for a month or two; so, be patient. If they return the contact, wonderful! If not, leave it at that.
Seeing Someone in Public
There are other times where you may run into someone while out and about on your daily errands. If you have a moment and you remember them fondly, you may want to take a moment to say hello. But, there are some things you should consider when weighing this situation.
Sometimes it’s appropriate and yet at other times, it’s inconvenient. Yet, some moments can make things awkward and bizarre. This will all rely on where you are, how many people are in the vicinity, the type of foot traffic around you, what kind of time you have, and if you make eye contact.
Approaching in Public Accommodations
When you’re in public accommodation, assess the situation before you approach the person. First make note of where you are: such as a grocery store, clothing retailer, bar, or restaurant. Then consider how many people are around.
Evaluate if the person is with other people, engaged in another conversation and if they notice you. If you have a clear path and the person sees you, smile and wave. Then, see how they respond. If the area around them is free and they’re not engaged in a conversation, make your way over to them.
Say, “Hello,” introduce yourself, and then offer a handshake. You could say something such as:
“How are you? I don’t know if you remember me or not, but if I’m not mistaken, we met a Brad and Cindy’s wedding [or whatever your event is] about five years ago.”
How to Handle the Response
At this point, the person will either look like a deer in headlights or they will definitively remember you. In the case, they recall being at the wedding, but don’t remember you, mention something about what you did together to jog their memory. Ensure it’s something remarkable and is a reflection of why you remember this person.
If they still don’t remember you up to this point, don’t become enraged or upset. Also, don’t push the subject or insist on the discussion.
Simply thank them for their time and apologize for interrupting. Even if you didn’t interrupt, it’s still polite to say so. Walk away and continue with what you were doing.
Approaching in Open Spaces
For all those other instances that you notice someone, you remember and you’re at the park, on a sidewalk, or a parking lot, you’ll want to take in the observations as mentioned above for public accommodation. However, you can add the distance and auto traffic to your list of items to evaluate and consider.
The likelihood of the person not noticing you increases exponentially. Unless you have a clear path and they also see you with a show of recognition, it’s probably not a good idea to go out of your way to say anything. This will be especially true if they’re with a bunch of people at the park or look like they’re rushing to a destination, for instance.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.