What to say when mistaken by a stranger for a friend, and what to say when you realize that you’ve made an embarrassing mistake and don’t even know this stranger?
We were waiting to be seated in a restaurant and I mistakenly addressed the man ahead of us as our good friend Bill and started chatting. It took a couple of seconds to realize it was not Bill, but a total stranger — a near look-alike. Especially from the back. The stranger was a real gentleman and continued to talk about the restaurant the weather and somehow managed to get in the fact that his name was George _____, which of course did not ring a bell.
I was impressed that he didn’t embarrass me further by saying something such as, “You must be mistaking me for somebody else.” When my wife returned from the ladies room she picked up immediately on what I had gotten myself into, because she also thought at first glance that she recognized Bill.
Later we wondered what I could have said to show I appreciated his good manners?
–Alfred, Charleston, S.C.
George knew what to say when mistaken for a friend by a stranger: You gently help him to bounce back by talking about nothing personal. Instead, he made small talk about the place and weather before subtly introducing himself by dropping his name. Not necessarily to correct you, but to let on that he knew that you knew, that you had mistaken him for a look-alike.
George probably felt your embarrassment nearly as much as you did. Next time say, “I thought for a minute you were my old friend Arnold Russell, but you are younger.”
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Accepting A Compliment