Thanks to a reader’s wonderful suggestion, I am going to cover the topic of running into someone who you haven’t seen in a long time. Ever since I finished college and moved home for the foreseeable future, I’ve had my fair share of awkward run-ins with old high school “friends”, teachers, neighbors, my parents’ friends, coaches and basically anyone who attempts to have a conversation with me. It seems I can’t go anywhere without being seeing someone I know/semi-know. But thanks to the frequency of these attacks, I feel like I have turned into quite the expert in handling or avoiding these situations altogether. Here’s my best advice.
This mnemonic device is not only helpful in reminding you what to do with your mouth when you see someone you might not want to, didn’t expect or just haven’t seen in a while, it also reminds you to Stop, Mill, Imitate, Land, Excite/Elongate. Out of context, these words seem jumbled together and insignificant but once put to use, you will be amazed at their power. For example, you are at a clothing store and you see someone you know/semi-know, so you stop in your tracks because you don’t want them to think you recognized them just yet. You should make them make the first move, make them want to talk to you.
The milling will help with this. After stopping, you should mill about in order to avoid contact with said person. To further this step, you should imitate an action. Pretend to fold clothes, try on a hat, sunglasses, anything that makes the person believe you haven’t seen them and your sense of style has greatly improved. Imitating also gives you time to think over what you should talk about with this person and maybe how exactly you know them.
By this point, the person in question should stop over and say hi and this is where landing comes in. You’re going to take a deep breath, stop milling, stop imitating and firmly plant or land yourself across from the person and talk with them. The land is crucial. You want to make a good impression and the only way to do so is with a good strong land. But let’s face it, after all that milling and imitating, you are completely ready to make your landing. Next, you must remember to excite the person you are talking to. Smile, be animated – you’ve had enough time to prepare yourself for this conversation. I also included the word elongate but you don’t necessarily have to. I’m short, however, so I always want to remind myself to stand up straight, elongate myself, if you will. This way I appear more confident. If I don’t remind myself to be excited and elongated, I end up looking like a caveman whose been dragged out of his cave and is unfamiliar with and therefore, terrified of civilization.
Cautiously and Secretively Ignore:
This is pretty much my specialty. Let’s say I’m in the grocery store and I recognize someone from high school. The last thing I want is for them to realize that I recognize or remember them. This is difficult because you want to ignore them while hiding the fact that you’re choosing to ignore them. So you have to turn your attention elsewhere. That’s why I recommend holding something at all times. For example, a common grocery store item such as a bag of carrots. When you pass the person you know, you are going to stare at these carrots in any way that seems appropriate to you. You could be shocked, sad, ecstatic, scared, enamored – any emotion that helps you to avoid eye contact and conversation.
If you’re not at the grocery store and don’t have a bag of carrots at your disposal, you could use your purse, a watch or your hand. Just seem abnormally invested in whatever it is you choose to stare at. You could also just spin, walk quickly or shut your eyes as you walk by the person that you don’t want to encounter, in order to appear completely caught up in another activity or thought.
What if you don’t want to ignore them and you don’t just want to S.M.I.LE.? You want to do more than impress. You want to shine. Well, my friends, then you must work it. Working it is different for everyone; one classic example is juggling. Juggling not only looks super impressive but it also has a built-in catch phrase, “Would love to catch up, but I’m juggling so many things right now.” If you think a wink won’t mess up your rhythm and balance, you should definitely throw one in there. Luckily, I took a clown class when I was in 3rd grade, so I know how to juggle but if you don’t know how, there are plenty of other great ways you can work it. You can do your best catwalk and then go on to have a conversation with your old friend, who will be extremely impressed with your smooth walking skills. You can flaunt your gorgeous hair that has grown significantly since you were last seen. You can set fire to anything that’s in close proximity and run away. If all else fails, you can even just have a plain old normal conversation, which I know would impress a lot of people I went to high school with most of all.
You can even do all three, S.M.I.L.E., ignore and work it. That, however, takes some serious skill, coordination, endurance and bravery. But, there is no doubt in my mind, with some practice you will be S.M.I.L.Eing, ignoring and working it in no time.