1. JA

    Do you remember me? You don’t remember me, do you? You remember Mary, don’t you?

    I recently ran into someone who was in a junior high school extra-curricular activity, with me, 35 years ago. She walked up to me and said, “do you remember me”? Since we were acquaintances in this one activity and had not had any on-going interaction in the last 35 years, I didn’t recognize her. She looks different than she did 35 years ago! Alternately, I’ve had someone walk up to me, say hello, and then say “you don’t remember me, do you”? Lastly, a relative of mine (even after I’ve politely and repeatedly asked for an alternate approach) will run into someone she hasn’t seen for some time (and who she remembers) and will look to me and say, “you remember, Mary, don’t you”? Of course, I have no idea who Mary is and feel put on the spot by the question. What is the proper way to handle myself in these situations?

    Thank you for any guidance you might provide!

    • Country Girl

      This is always awkward, which is why you are correct: it is good etiquette for one to introduce them self first and never assume remembrance which automatically puts someone on the spot. Ie. “I’m not sure if you remember me or not, but I’m Jane Doe. We were in band together in junior high.” or “Mary, this is my nephew James Anderson. James, this is Mary Collins. You may remember her, she joined us for dinner at my house a few years ago.”

      I would keep after the relative who is putting you in this spot by saying “I sometimes have a hard time remembering people I haven’t seen in a very long time. You might not be aware of the position you put me in when you ask if I remember them, but it makes me feel very uncomfortable to be put on the spot. I know it must also makes the other person feel bad if I do not remember them.”

      Also in answer to your question, when I am put in this spot I have a go-to line. It is
      “Oh you do look familiar. Can you remind me of your name and from where I might know you?” or in the second instance “Oh Mary you do look familiar. Aunt can you remind me from where I might know her?” 1) Saying someone looks familiar is more gentle than admitting you have completely forgotten them (which of course happens). 2) This gives you a chance to fill in the missing information instead of just agreeing and possibly being put on the spot again later. and 3) If the person has perhaps confused you with someone else (which also happens) then you have not untruthfully committed yourself to remembering anything you don’t.

  2. Jerry

    “I’m embarrassed to say that your face is familiar but I’m having some problems placing you. Can you help me out?”

  3. Brockwest

    I used to be embarrassed if I couldn’t place someone’s name, but I’ve learned it’s easier to simply honestly state, “I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time placing where I’ve met you, can you tell me your name and how we know each other?” It takes the burden off me and prevents potential wrong assumptions.

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