It's happened to all of us. You are at a party or business meeting and people are greeting one another. One of the people in the group looks vaguely familiar or the contextual clues suggest that you are supposed to know the person. What's the best way to navigate this potentially awkward social situation? Lifehacker has a solution: say, "Hey, do I know you from somewhere…?"
On NPR's Hidden Brain podcast, they share a simple way to find out if the person you're greeting is a stranger or someone you should know. Aim to say this in a light or neutral tone so it comes off as natural. As you shake their hand or give a quick wave, say, "Hey, do I know you from somewhere…?"
If they say no, play it off with, "Oh, you just looked a little familiar. Wonderful to meet you!"
If they say yes and mention how you know each other, follow up with, "Yes, that's right. So good to see you again!" Of course, this only works one or two times with the same person, so if you have a strong feeling you've met them before (and maybe used this trick), go for something more general like, "Hey, how are you?"
I used the "Hey, how are you?" line about a month ago at a party. A woman with red hair walked up to the bar where I was standing and she looked at me with recognition and smiled warmly. She looked familiar but I couldn't remember where I'd met her. "Hi, how are you!" I said. She said something like, "It's so nice to see you!" As we chatted about nothing, it dawned on me that she was writer Susan Orlean. We'd never met before. She had mistaken me for someone else. I'm sure she soon realized that she'd never met me. After about 30 seconds of pleasant chitchat we parted.