The Name Game

There you are, at an industry function when someone calls out your name. Oh hey! How are you uhh, buddy. Yes, you’ve forgotten their name. And now you spend the first 30 seconds of your conversation trying to figure out how you know this person. Time to start the alphabet game:  A – nope, B (maybe Brad?) no, C, no… and so forth. It’s a frustrating and potentially embarrassing situation to find yourself in and one most of us could use some help on how to recall names.

A few tips:

Recall – repeat, repeat, repeat. As soon as you hear their name, repeat it back as in “nice to meet you, Julie”. If you can work it into the conversation again without overdoing it, do so. Repeating Julie’s name in your head after the conversation also helps to cement it into your name bank.

Word Association – during your conversation, try to associate their name with something they told you. Rhymes and alliteration are good tools to use: Frank drives a Fiat, Penny is a pilot, Gail’s in sales  – you get the drift. Or use their name to associate it with something you’re familiar with and work it into the conversation – “my Dad’s name is John”.

Ask – it’s better to ask the person to repeat their name if you’ve forgotten a minute into the conversation, or even at the end of your chat, rather than to walk away not knowing. “Sorry, I missed your name”, “I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you but I’ve forgotten your name” are both non-offensive ways to say you can’t remember. Chances are, the person you’re talking to has forgotten your name as well so you can both save face and re-introduce yourself.

Bottom line, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t recall someone’s name – just ask. When it becomes embarrassing and potentially career-limiting is when you’ve spoken to someone a couple of times and still don’t know their name. Your colleague or client may feel slighted that they weren’t important enough to remember, which no one wants. We all forget names (it’s not just me, right?) so find a way that resonates with you and your recall abilities to capture their name in firmly place it in your memory bank.  


Post by: Lynn McIlwee