What to do when you forget someone's name

What To Do When You Forget Someone’s Name

It happens to everyone soon or later, especially in our 5o’s and beyond. You run into someone you know, perhaps in an out of context setting, and you go blank. In fact, “Le Husband” and I often joke that I typically  remember the first name and he remembers the second; so somehow we patch it together!  It’s even more embarrassing when you are in charge of introductions.  So what do you do when you forget someone’s name?

According to Benjamin Levy, a memory trainer (yes, they exist),  and the author of Remember Every Name Every Time: Corporate America’s Memory Master Reveals His Secrets , there’s no telling when your memory is going to flash an “out of order” sign.   However, he assures us that there’s no need to panic. I say, “Well then, show me what to do  Benjamin!”

Here are 7 of Levy’s recommendations:

1 | Never Guess! The only thing worse than letting someone know that you’ve forgotten his or her name is to call the person by someone else’s name. I’ve done this and am forever mortified when I see this person.

2 | Ask For Introductions. If you’re talking to two people who know you but don’t know each other and you can only recall one name, say to the mystery person “Why don’t you introduce yourself to Adam?  (I have a colleague who does this regularly and it’s brilliant).  If both names escape you (!) say, “You both are so wonderful. Why don’t you introduce yourself to each other?”  Yes, it’s a wee bit clumsy but it works.

3 | Have A Private Agreement. If you are with your spouse/partner and if you don’t immediately introduce him, have a private agreement that it means you don’t know the other person’s name. “Le Husband” and I do this frequently. He jumps in and says “Hi, I’m Clarke, Patty’s husband.”  Works like a charm!

4 | Use Physical Touch But Only Where Appropriate.   Put an arm around the person’s shoulder or grasp their arm to connect. This provides a form of intimacy that will help cover up your snafu.  Just be careful to be appropriate; nobody likes a groper!

5 | Use the “Hubert H. Humphrey Memorial Lower-Lumbar Maneuver”.   Being a former Minnesotan, I love this one even though its a little corny.  According to Levy, Humphrey welcomed a gentleman into a conversation he was having with a colleague. The third man greeted both of them by name. Humphrey asked him with a look of concern, “How’s your back?”  As the man walked away, Humphrey’s colleague asked who he was. “I’m afraid I have no idea”, said Humphrey. “But you even asked about his bad back”.   Humphrey replied, “Everybody my age has a bad back. Whenever I forget someone’s name, I ask him about his back”.  Okay, a little corny but when you think about it, there’s a reason his colleagues gravitated toward him!

6 | Go Fishing.  Sometimes additional information will help.  Say, “It’s been too long. When was the last time we say each other?”. Putting the face in context works surprising well. I do this a lot!

7 | Honest Is The Best Policy.   This is my favorite as it feels the most genuine. Say, ” Of course I remember you, but your name has slipped my mind”.   Just be sure to mention whatever information you do remember about them.   “We met last year at John and Alice’s party” to show them they are not a total stranger.  Or simply say, “I’m sorry. I’ve gone completely blank. Please remind me of  your name”.

So what’s your best trick? I’d love to hear it below in the comments!

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*Disclaimer: Some posts contain affiliate links. Though I may earn a small income should my readers choose to purchase through the links I share, all opinions, reviews and product evaluations are my own. – Patty

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Comments (2)

  • These are good tips. I certainly have the problem of drawing s blank and not remembering names. It’s almost guaranteed to happen more at menopause. What’s even worse in my case is when I first meet someone I will forget their name within minutes!! It’s embarrassing. I think it’s due to being nervous or anxious when meeting new people. I’ve decided I do that because I’m worried about what others will think of me. One thing I’ve tried to do is stop thinking about myself in those situations and focus on a genuine interest in others.

    • Patty Adams

      Hi Lynn! That darn menopause. It feels like the culprit to me too. I do think you are quite right that a lot of it is anxiety. I love your idea to stop thinking about oneself in those situations and focus on genuine interest in others! Lovely!!

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