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Dating: What to do when you encounter someone from an online dating site

We’ve all been there. You’re out and about, having a few drinks, maybe even on a date, and there he or she is ... someone you recognize from (fill in your favorite online dating site or app here). Maybe you just clicked on each other’s profiles, maybe you “flirted” or “winked,” maybe you both swiped right, maybe you sent messages back and forth a few times, or maybe you had one fateful date that never led to another. Or even worse, maybe someone “ghosted” you. What is the proper protocol when you have the dreaded in-person online dating encounter?

You have a few choices when this happens:

1. Run. And run fast. Get out of there now.

2. Give each other the awkward, “I know you know I know” nod all night.

3. Avoid each other like the plague lest you get caught in a “Tinder Moment.”

4. Say a friendly, knowing hello and go on your way.

5. Announce to all your friends, and everyone in the room for that matter, that you guys know each other from eHarmony. How funny is that?

I’m hoping the answer is obvious ... No. 4. It’s happened to all of us, and it’s not a big deal. Whenever I hold a seminar or make a presentation, I start out with the question, “How many people in this room have done online dating?” Depending on the age range of the audience, anywhere from about 15 to 50 percent of the hands go up. But then I change the question to, “How many people in this room know someone who has done online dating?” Without fail, 100 percent of hands are in the air every time.

It’s a small world out there, so we’re bound to have these meetings. But the mature way to downplay the potential awkwardness is to say a knowing hello and be on your way. The mature way to not get into the situation in the first place, if you’ve had a date that won’t be progressing to a second, is to let someone down maturely and tactfully:

It was really nice meeting you, and thanks again for the drink. Unfortunately, I just didn’t think we clicked the way I’d want us to, but I think you’re really great and wish you all the best.

It’s truthful, gets the point across, and there won’t be any miscommunication. Then, when you see each other, no one has to wonder what happened. So it goes. There’s a lid for every pot. This lid just didn’t fit.

So don’t cower in embarrassment, don’t flee the premises, and don’t call any more attention to it than you have to. A polite hello will do the trick. And who knows? Maybe the polite hello will lead you to strike up a conversation, and you’ll then be able to say that you met offline instead.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, for updates and tips.