In my previous job, I used to see the same person over and over again at every single industry conference I attended. Let’s call him Forgetful Frank (you’ll soon realize why).
We originally met at a trade show and engaged in what I considered to be a relatively lively discussion about the quality of the free swag.
Several months later, we shook hands again during a cocktail hour. I was completely prepared to bring back a charming inside joke from our last interaction when he looked me in the eye and said, “It’s great to meet you.”
I was taken aback. What was going on? Did he not remember our witty banter about the free branded stress balls and drawstring backpacks? Was I really that forgettable?
Paralyzed by my confusion, I managed to stutter out an, “It’s great to meet you too” before weaving my way to the appetizer table and wondering if this guy had some rare case of undiagnosed amnesia.
Well, this same interaction happened a couple of more times at various events before I finally summoned my courage and told Frank that he had a memory worse than that of the average house fly.
Of course, I put it much more nicely than that. And, if you’re currently in a situation where you need to do the same thing, I’ve pulled together a couple of phrases that you can lean on to let that person know you actually have met before—perhaps even several times.
Use This When You’re Interacting in Person
“I Thought You Looked Familiar, and I Just Remembered That We Met Before at…”
Sure, that person may have forgotten all about you, but that doesn’t mean you want to point the finger and embarrass them.
That’s what’s so great about a phrase like this one. It unites you with that other person by making them think they aren’t alone in overlooking your last encounter. It gives you the opportunity to refresh their memory, without making yourself seem superior.
“Correct Me If I’m Wrong, But Didn’t We Cross Paths at…”
This is another one that helps you state the obvious without coming across as condescending.
By phrasing your reminder as a question instead of a statement, it seems way more casual—and far less accusatory.
Use This When You’re Interacting via Email
“Your Name Rang a Bell, and it Turns Out We…”
Since you don’t have the benefit of actually seeing this person’s face, you can consider this phrase to be the email equivalent of the, “I thought I recognized you…” trick above.
Similarly, this one puts you on the same team as that other person by making it seem like you don’t have a flawless memory either.
Did you actually forget that person? Well, no. But, they don’t have to know that. Sometimes a little white lie is necessary—particularly when it helps preserve someone’s ego.
“It’s Great to Hear From You Again! We Actually Worked Together On…”
There’s never anything wrong with going the direct route, and you can soften the blow by prefacing it with something friendly.
This phrase flat-out corrects that other person, but it kicks things off with a friendly greeting to make it clear that you aren’t upset or offended (well, at least not outwardly) that this contact forgot you.
Needing to enlighten someone about the fact that they’ve actually met you before can be awkward.
But, rather than rolling your eyes and letting the whole thing go, it’s better to fill that person in on the information they’re forgetting. This could end up being a valuable contact within your network, and you’re passing up on that chance if you’re too nervous to offer a brief refresher about your history.
So, take a deep breath and remind that person that this isn’t the first time you’ve crossed paths. If my experience with Forgetful Frank taught me anything, it’s that you only need to correct them once—and they’ll never forget you again.
Photo of people shaking hands courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author