I often find myself in situations, where I'd love to greet someone that I barely know. For example: when I'm doing my workout routine in the gym, I see a person that I once helped to e.g. lift something. Though I don't really know the person I would like to greet him/her properly.

The question(s): How do I greet someone I just talked to once or helped once? What do I do if he/she is not looking towards me?

It's not that difficult with people from the same gender and age (I'm 22 years old male living in Germany), but it still feels weird to look more than usual towards him/her until he/she notices me.

It's not very important to me to get to know a person better, but I would like to increase the number of people that I can greet and also greet me even though they haven't spoken to me a lot. I think that would cause a way friendlier environment for all of us.

  • 1
    If this is about a specific person/encounter then it would help to explain that in more detail. If you are asking about the general etiquette then then framing it like that would help.
    – Jesse
    May 17, 2018 at 13:25
  • I wonder what the expected effect is. Do you want to get into closer contact to them or just want to be friendly and not rude if you ignore them. These are two different goals that surely have different approaches how to react. For example if it's the latter case, it is not rude to not greet someone who isn't even aware you are there.
    – puck
    May 17, 2018 at 15:20

3 Answers 3


The thing you shouldn't do...

The most common mistake that a person would make is to portray their awkwardness in a situation like this. Never approach the other party if you are going to be awkward about it.

Also, try not to ask questions like "how was your day?" or "what did you do today?" as these questions seem to throw off the conversation and tends to be boring, or may come across as "probing" to the other party, unless it is common in your local culture to ask these questions as a conversation starter.


You want to be exuding your confidence in social interactions in these kind of situations. In any case, face it like any other normal interaction you would have on the street if you bump into a friend or a relative. Also, be clear about your purpose of greeting the other party (especially if they are facing away from you). You don't want the situation to end up in an awkward silence after you exchange greetings with each other. Making small talk is good but keeping it short is ideal.

If the other party is facing away from you, you can walk up to them and give them a light tap on the shoulder and introduce yourself.

Hey there, remember me? I helped you with [something] the other day. [Continue on with a topic you want to talk about... don't create the awkward silence between the both of you, as stated above].

Last little pointer is you may offer to shake hands to ease in to the conversation with them, as you deem fit.

  • 3
    Why not just move around the person into their FOV to say hello? A lot of people don't like to be touched (there is enough evidence on this StackExchange alone) and at least I consider tapping someone to get their attention very rude. It basically screams "I'm more important than whatever you are doing NOTICE ME". Jun 13, 2018 at 12:52

Try to connect to what you already know!

Like in your example, you share a hobby and you helped him once. You can hint at the first encounter to help him remember who you are, or you just relate to the hobby you share. You can

Something like:

You: Hi there Again! How´s training progressing?

He: Oh hi - fine, but still cant lift that weight without help.

You: Ah, yea that´s hard! Hey, if you want to do that exercise, just ask, I´m always happy to help!

If he´s occupied, wait for him to finish his set, obviously. But other than tha, just walk over and talk to him, keeping an open posture. If you want, you can offer a handshake which is always polite - as long as neither of you has sweaty fingers from the workout already.


Try to make eye contact, or call out to them.

If you just go up to them without them seeing you, they may feel ambushed. Let them know you've seen them by making contact from a distance.

When you've made the initial contact, observe their body language. Try to gauge whether or not they are interested in having a conversation. If they look focused on what they're doing and barely acknowledge you, just give them a friendly smile and a wave and leave it at that.

If they do seem interested, that's your cue to approach them and start a conversation, bu try to keep to the topic of your last interaction. For instance, if last time you helped them lift, something like

If I remember correctly, you were doing some lifting the last time we met. Would you like some help again today?

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