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What To Do: Do I Know You?
Think, emote and then tell Kirk Heron all about it

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In the interest in hearing what you readers have to say about “what to do”, I am posing a question of my own this week. This issue has come up more than a few times during my years, and I’ve always had trouble dealing with it. Read the post and leave comments below so we can all figure this out together!

Hi Kirk. Is it true that you are very handsome? Don’t answer that, I like the mystery. Anyway, I have an issue that occurs maybe once a year, and my friends have had the same thing happen to them multiple times, yet none of us can figure out the proper solution. The most recent example took place a few days ago at a bar. I was approached by a man who I am sure I have never seen before, but apparently he knew me very well. He said, “Hey man, what’s up?” I answered with a polite, “Not much.” He went on to ask me about how so-and-so was doing, and then I realized that he thought I was someone else. Normally, a person would realize after ten seconds that they aren’t talking to the person they think they are, but this man continued for twenty minutes or so, until I made an excuse to leave. I couldn’t bring myself to say, “I don’t think I’m the person you think I am.” Is there a solution to this problem that won’t leave both parties sitting in a pool of embarrassment?

Just to be clear again, dear reader, I wrote that question. I’ll explain what I did, and what I continue to do when this happens, though I am consistently aware that it’s not the correct approach. I’ll start by saying that I have what must be a pretty generic face. People come up to me pretty regularly and start conversations about people I don’t know, in fact there is one person that goes to a coffee shop that I frequent, and for the last year or so we have continued the charade that we have known each other for a long time. I sensed that he realized his mistake after some time, yet we still nod to each other and actually engage in pretty lengthy conversations about what is going on in our lives. That whole situation began when he came up to me at a trivia night I was hosting and said, “I didn’t know you did this,” and instead of saying, “Why would you? I dont’ even know who you are.” I said, “Yep, I do!” The tension piled up each time we saw each other, and now it had reached a point of no return.

In a one-off situation, I basically always do the same thing: I hope that the other person will realize their mistake and bring it up, thus causing themselves embarrassment and leaving me to comment on how it was very awkward for me. That almost never happens, and it’s really selfish on my part, but as far as I can tell there is no way to broach the subject without fallout. 

There are many blunt people in the world who would have little to no problem telling a person right away that they don’t know them. And while it’s easy for me as an advice columnist to say, “Just tell the person straight-up that you don’t know them. The sooner you do it, the easier it will be for both of you,” I know from experience that it’s not that easy. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that difficult for an adult to deal with a small bout of embarrassment, but for me when it comes down to the wire I have a great deal of difficulty throwing someone to the sharks. What do I do!?


Kirk Heron is Toronto Standard‘s advice columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @ohnowhattodo

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