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If you stumble upon an acquaintance, then it is normal for you to have a short conversation, or perhaps even spontaneously plan to do something together right away. But if there are people with you who don’t know your acquaintance (or anyone who is with them) or people with them who don’t know you (or anyone who is with you), this is, of course, a whole different kind of situation.

What is the most correct way to behave when it happens? Should you say hi to your acquaintance, or a slight smile is sufficient? Should you have even a 10 second long conversation, or is it better to try to avoid it all? And if they try to talk to you (and this is obvious to you that there are people with you who start to feel uncomfortable), what should you do to politely stop them from having a conversation with you?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Ælis, avazula, Upper_Case, Lord Farquaad, ElizB Dec 30 '18 at 1:36

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Could you add a location tag? I imagine there is a lot of variation on what is considered "appropriate" around the world. – Upper_Case Dec 27 '18 at 21:44
  • Actually I’d like to know what is considered normal for different countries and cultures. – Arseny Dec 28 '18 at 11:46
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    I don't think that that sort of question will work well for this site-- when a question is too broad it doesn't mesh well with the question-and-answer structure IPS.SE aims to achieve. I strongly encourage you to put some bounds on what you're asking. – Upper_Case Dec 28 '18 at 17:52
  • I get the point. Then let’s consider this in the western context. I can’t add a tag though since it requires 150 reputation. – Arseny Dec 29 '18 at 19:53
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This actually just happened to me this past weekend! My friends and I were walking to our table in a restaurant when I heard someone say "scohe001? Is that you??" and turned to see an old acquaintance from years ago.

While you could try to invite your friends to meet the old acquaintance if you know them well enough and are in a place where you can stop and chat all together, I find that I'm usually not quite outgoing enough to try to facilitate a conversation between two different groups like that.

Instead, I turned to my friends and said:

You guys can go on ahead and sit down, I'm going to catch up with my old friend for a second. Feel free to start ordering--just save me a slice of bread!

I let my friends know that I needed a second, but that I didn't want to hold them up. This allowed them to avoid a conversation and meeting with my old acquaintance without being rude while also giving me a minute to stop and chat with them.

  • That’s good, though probably “you guys can go ahead” is better since that leaves them a choice (and if they understand the potential awkwardness of the situation in case they don’t leave you two, they will probably go). – Arseny Dec 27 '18 at 17:41
  • @Arseny good point! I'll edit to add that. – scohe001 Dec 27 '18 at 17:45

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