Chris used to work with Sam, although they were in different countries. Chris has now moved and works in the same country as Sam. Chris has heard from Sam's colleague Toni (whom Chris has known for a long time and considers a friend) that Sam is ill, but Toni does not know the specifics. Chris has previously heard from Sam that Sam's partner Robin sits in the same corridor as Chris in Chris' new workplace. Chris doesn't know Robin but is interested to know how Sam is doing. Robin knows that Chris and Sam know each other.

It feels a bit strange and risky to approach a semi-stranger (colleague in some corridor but in different department) with a question of their partner is doing. It's quite a private question, and perhaps Sam is doing very poorly and Toni does not want to think about this while at work (at least Sam is still alive or Chris would have heard).

Chris' primary aim is to find out how Sam is doing, but perhaps also (secondarily) to get to know colleague Robin.

How can Chris approach Robin with this question?

In case it matters, Chris and Sam are Dutch, Robin is German, all actors are based in Germany.

  • 1
    and... you are which one of the three? Please, just to make things clear :)
    – virolino
    Jul 18, 2019 at 9:57
  • @virolino There are four people involved :) (Chris, Sam, Toni, Robin). Question is what Chris should do.
    – gerrit
    Jul 18, 2019 at 9:59
  • Does Robin at least know that Chris and Sam know each other and were former work colleagues? If that is known, than it wouldn't be too random to ask about Sam IMO. Jul 18, 2019 at 13:43
  • @LuxClaridge Yes, I think Robin knows.
    – gerrit
    Jul 18, 2019 at 13:51

1 Answer 1


If Robin knows Chris and Sam worked together as stated in the comments, I believe that Chris is not a complete stranger to Robin (at least she should know the name and / or face).

My advice is:

  1. approach in a casual manner away from an audience, in a relaxed situation, like grabbing coffee, etc.

  2. brief introduction just to trigger her memory, mentioning that you know Sam / used to work with him ("Hi, Robin, not sure if you remember me, I'm Chris from X department and I worked with Sam back in the Netherlands" or something to that extent)

  3. ask about Sam and omit the source ("I heard that Sam is a bit under the weather lately, how is he doing?" or something like that)

My own experience working with the Dutch and German is that they're not a talkative lot like the Latins (like myself or my Italian colleagues), but they'll volunteer information if you ask nicely and come across as you're genuinely worried and not being nosy. I did exactly like this when one colleague was having health issues that resulted in long term disability leave and I wanted to know how she was doing from somebody else from her department that I barely knew. I just went and asked when I happened to come across that other person grabbing a cup of coffee.

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