I just met a person in the elevator at work, and he seemed friendly enough and seemed to strike up a friendly conversation with me.

Is it okay if I ask what his name is in this short conversation so that I can say "Hi" the next time I meet him?

I am a bit confused because:

  1. It would be the third or fourth sentence in the whole conversation
  2. I don't know how to actually ask the question without sounding abrupt

[PS: I am not an American or a native English speaker]

  • Welcome to Interpersonal Skills! I invite you to take the tour and visit our help center to learn more about the site and its guidelines. Good first question, by the way. :)
    – NVZ
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 19:48
  • 1
    Is your question specifically asking how to ask a man for his name? Also you don't give your gender. You say "ask his name" in the body, but your title says "someone". Men vs. women might respond differently.
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 21:45
  • @user3169 Now that you bring it up I would like to know details in both cases. This specific instance is man-to-man
    – dbza
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 21:48
  • You should add these details to your question. But I don't think you will find a "one size fits all" answer. It is like if you pass someone on the street, do you say "Hi" or not. It's highly situational.
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 21:51
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this site has since decided it no longer does requests for what is or isn't polite and why
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 17:53

3 Answers 3


Of course, introduce yourself first:

By the way, I'm Jane. I work in... and do...

Then let the other person take the initiative to introduce themselves or not. If they do, problem solved. If not, you should respect their privacy.

Especially in a business setting, people are often where they need to be, not where they want to be. So I would not presume a social situation automatically exists, and the other person might not either.


That would absolutely be okay, especially if you're already conversing with the person. An easy way to approach the subject would be to say something to the effect of

"My name is X by the way, what's yours?"

Or if you've already introduced yourself, it's fine just to ask.

  • This is also a fairly tame form of networking. Usually doesn't hurt to have small positive interactions with people you may work with in the future.
    – JMac
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 21:00
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    Unfortunately, by saying "what's yours?" you almost force an answer from the other party.
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 21:08
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    @user3169 Is that really a problem in this situation? The other person is making conversation about things like "department they work for, etc.". Context is important, and in these types of conversations, where it seems like someone on the elevator is just getting to know them slightly, exchanging names should be par for the course. If you were talking about the weather it would be a little presumptuous to ask for a name.
    – JMac
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 21:27
  • Is a hand shake implied in this situation?
    – dbza
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 21:36
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    @user3169 Yes, asking someone's name is also small talk on the same level. You don't need a first and last name or anything crazy. If they ask you what department you work in, it's completely reasonable to exchange names as well. That fits perfectly in the context of a brief introduction. You force their hand no more than they force yours asking your department. It's nothing more than an introduction. You don't have to become best friends by the time the doors next open.
    – JMac
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 21:45

I do this all the time.

In my country (US), not only is it polite, it's standard protocol. Exchanging names is the basic social nicety. It's all kinds of normal to offer a handshake and say, "I'm dbza, pleased to meet you." It'd be a rare bird who wouldn't reciprocate with his own name.

  • To clarify: You do that in the elevator, while the elevator moves from floor 1 to 5?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 21, 2018 at 18:29

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