Meeting Someone For The Second Time Is The Most Awkward

Image by Snugg LePup

Image by Snugg LePup

In two weeks, I’ll be heading to Utah for my company’s Grand Meetup, the one time a year when the entirety of Automattic meets in person (we’re a distributed company, so everyone works from home). This will be my second Grand Meetup, which means that I will already have met a significant percentage of the people who will be there.

Should be a great time, and definitely less pressure than the first Grand Meetup, right?

Mmmm, no.

Oh, it will be fun. Don’t get me wrong. At the same time, there are several things my over-thinking, over-analyzing mind will be freaking out about over the next… well, three weeks….

Last year, I mentioned that I’m an awkward hugger. A year later?

Yup, still awkward. So there’s that.

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Now, for the record, I love meeting new people. I really do. I’m good at small talk, and I rarely have a problem engaging someone I just met in conversation. Sure, the hugging is awkward, but hey, that usually doesn’t figure into the first meeting, anyway (more on this in a minute).

Besides, I just let the other person initiate, and then the only thing I have to worry about is that people might think I’m stand-offish and don’t like to be touched. Well, better to be stand-offish than creepy-feely, if you ask me. (The photo above is totally staged, by the way, but it does represent my worst nightmare when I go in to hug someone.)

So yeah, meeting someone for the first time? Not a problem after all.

Now, you know what is a problem?

Meeting someone for the second time. That’s hard. And if you don’t think so, here’s why maybe you should worry about second meetings just a tad, too:

When you meet someone for the first time, you have everything in the world to talk about. Your relationship, whether professional, personal, or romantic, is essentially a blank state. You get a chance to fill that slate with all sorts of wondrous conversations.

And yeah, you rarely have to worry about hugging (assuming you’re an awkward hugger, like me). Handshakes are perfectly acceptable on the first meeting.

But when you meet someone for the second time?

Now, there are expectations (not the least of which is whether or not the other person has upgraded you to hugging level). Here’s a partial list of all the things that can take a turn for the disastrous when you meet someone for the second time:

  • When they first wave at you from a distance, you can’t tell if you know them, so you’re not sure how to respond.
  • When they first wave at you from a distance, you recognize them immediately, so you wave back excitedly, only to realize they’re actually waving to someone standing right behind you.
  • You wave at them from a distance, but they fail to wave back, and you’re left wondering if they didn’t see you or didn’t recognize you.
  • Immediately upon seeing them up close, you realize they’re not who you thought they were.
  • You offer them a hug when they prefer a handshake.
  • You offer them a handshake when they prefer a hug.
  • You offer them a handshake when they prefer you keep your sweaty, smelly hands to yourself.
  • You forget their name and have to ask for it again.
  • You call them by the wrong name, only to have them correct you.
  • You call them by the wrong name, but they’re too nice to say anything, and you don’t realize your mistake until weeks later, when you want to contact them and go to look them up.
  • After five minutes of conversation, you realize you’ve mistaken them for someone else.
  • You think you’re meeting them for the second time, when it’s actually the first time.
  • You think you’re meeting them for the first time, when it’s actually the second time.
  • You think you’re meeting them for the first time, when it’s actually the third or fourth time.
  • They think they’re meeting you for the first time, when it’s actually the second time. Or they call you by the wrong name, or forget some other detail about you. You remember your first meeting in vivid detail, though, and have to convince yourself not to be ever so slightly insulted at their failure to remember.
  • You spend 10 minutes telling them a hilarious anecdote about yourself, only to realize afterwards that you already told them the story the first time you met them.
  • They bring up a hilarious anecdote about themselves, prompting you to say, “Oh, so what happened?” And they respond with, “Yeah, remember? I told you about it last time….”
  • After 20 minutes of conversation, you start to suspect you might have mistaken them for someone else, but you just can’t be sure.

And the list just goes on….

Am I way over-thinking this? Oh, definitely. But that doesn’t mean I won’t still commit some of the aforementioned second meeting faux pas. (Faux pases? Faux pi?) In fact, given the sheer number of one-on-one meetings I have coming up, odds are I will make at least one of these mistakes at least once during the meetup.

And as someone who prides himself on his social skills, I’m slightly saddened by this daunting inevitability.

Now, maybe you’ll understand why meeting someone for the second time will always be way more pressure than the first. Damned expectations.

If you’re an Automattician, and we see each other in two weeks… you know what?

Can we just agree beforehand that I’ll stand and wave at you indiscriminately from a distance? And you can come and say hi (and even hug me) if you so choose? I think that will be the least awkward for both of us.

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  • I think the worst thing about meeting someone for the second time is not remembering that you met them a *first* time. Talk about awkward… Anyway. For the record, I don’t think you’re an awkward hugger. But then there were old fashioneds involved, so there’s that.

  • Second time can be awkward indeed. This is also like the hugging problem you were previous describing: the other person might be having the same hesitations too. It’s often the case when it’s in a group setting where you are meeting a bunch of people at once. Sometimes I just go for a handshake without making it clear whether it’s a “nice to meet you” or “nice to see you again”. And there’s also the thing where you are pretty sure you’ve met but you don’t remember the name…

    On a different topic, I’m a full time software developer and sometimes puppeteer. Most of my friends are either engineers or theater people. It seems that in one world, nobody hugs, and in the other, everybody hugs.

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