So far we’ve talked about why names are important, how to remember them, and things not to do when trying to remember somebody’s name. But It’s going to happen. You’re introducing your wife to your boss and you can’t remember either name. Or maybe that’s just me.
What do you do?
You’re talking to somebody. They’ve used your name. Now it’s time for you to acknowledge their existence and use theirs. But you can’t. It’s on the tip of your tongue. Think, think, think!
Now they’re getting the impression that they don’t matter because you’re not paying attention to them. You’re furiously trying to remember their name instead. How do you feel when this happens to you? I can’t remember you’re the name, and it seems that I’m not even paying attention to the conversation. Obviously I don’t think you matter enough to even focus on what you’re saying.
The only thing that could make this worse is somebody else coming along and “rescuing” me by interrupting the conversation. Then I can avoid admitting I don’t know your name. I’ll probably even physically turn away from you to talk to the new person.
But now I have a twice problem. I should introduce them to you, and I don’t remember your name! Maybe I can tap-dance a little and get you two to introduce yourselves. That way I don’t have to look stupid in front of two people.
It’s amazing that we think nobody else can tell. We can. Humans have built-in circuitry that knows when you can’t remember their name. We also have built-in circuits to help us rationalize our own bad behaviour. Be honest now, and stop digging a deeper hole. Don’t fake it or try to tap dance. They can tell, just like you can.
Admit & apologize. Apologize profusely and abjectly. Say “Sorry, I’ve forgotten your name. Can you please tell me again.” Or “I’m so sorry, I can’t remember your name.”
They events in our lives that we remember most clearly are those tied to a strong emotion. Use that emotion to reinforce the name in your memory. Use embarrassment you feel to focus on the name, repeat it, and you will remember it. Use the emotion to remember.
Most people will tell you, and add something that they can never remember names either. Or they’ll be relieved that they can to ask for yours again. You’ve done them a favour, and started building a relationship with them.
People will think you can remember their name if you say it. They won’t remember you had to ask twice.