Forget a Name? 6 Tips for Faking It.

I have a lot of trouble remembering people’s names. (My husband, on other hand, is freakily good at remembering names and faces — a very handy virtue in a spouse.)

Also, I often have trouble remembering why someone looks familiar. Several years ago, while at crowded birthday party for a three-year-old, I was on the brink of going over to some little kid’s father to say, “I think we went to college together.” Turns out it was Dylan McDermott!

So I’ve developed some strategies for coping with the fact that I’m not able to pull up a person’s name right away. Of course, you can always just say politely, “I’m sorry, I don’t recall your name,” but if you’d rather try to disguise your forgetfulness, give these a try:

1. The “I know your name, but I’m blocked” dodge:
“I keep wanting to call you ‘David,’ but I know that’s not right.”

2. The “Of course I know you — in fact, I want all your information” dodge:
“Hey, I’d love to get your card.”

3. The “The tip of my tongue” dodge:
“I know I know your name, but I’m blanking right now.”

4. The “You’re brilliant!” dodge:
“Wow, you have a terrific memory. I can’t believe you remember my name from that meeting six months ago. I can’t remember the names of people I met yesterday! So of course I have to ask you your name.”

5. The “Sure, I remember you” dodge:
(Advanced) “Remind me – what’s your last name?” If you ask a person for his last name, he’s likely to repeat both names. “Doe, John Doe.”

6. The “One-sided introduction” dodge:
“Hey,” you say to the person whose name you can’t remember, “let me introduce you to Pat Smith.” You introduce the two and say the name of the person whose name you remember. Almost always, the nameless person will volunteer his or her name.

Also, remember that others might have trouble remembering your name. When you’re saying hello to someone, err on the side of re-introducing yourself. “Hi, John, it’s Gretchen Rubin.” Say your name slowly and clearly. And don’t get offended if someone doesn’t remember your name!

How about you? Do you have trouble remembering names? If so, have you found any good strategies for doing a better job of remembering them — or pretending to remember them?

* A thoughtful reader sent the link to this post by Tracy Benjamin on HomeFries about tackling paper and piles. I’m so interested in clutter — how to recognize it, how to fight it, and its strangely powerful influence on happiness. It was very fun to see my book on the top of the pile on a bedside table.

* If you’re looking for a good book, please consider The Happiness Project (can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.

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  • Lyla

    I learned a good tip. If you forget someone’s name, say “What’s your name again?” When they tell you their first name, say, “No, your LAST name.” The person is then not offended and it makes you look like you remembered them in the first place! 🙂

  • I have a problem remembering people’s name especially if I haven’t seen them for a long time. My eyebrows would twitch whenever I see those people again. Then I would utter fake words that I really knew them. But after a while, my mind would tell me what’s the name of that person.

    Maybe my brain have the power to blocked people’s name, unconcsiously.

  • amyhoy

    “I’m so sorry, I’m such a spaz. Would you remind me of your name?” Self-effacing works, said with a smile it defuses a situation, aaaand no issues like “uh, it’s spelled SMITH.” Honesty is the best policy. Or that thing where you fail to introduce ppl to others. Then I say, “oh! I’m sorry, where are my manners?”

    Everybody knows a charming forgetful person and they don’t hate them. It’s a safe way to be.

  • I wear a name tag – $5, white on anodized black, magnet back – or use the event’s – creates a mental mug shot.

    For those of interest, I look them up on Facebook or LinkedIn, sometimes in a lull at the event, then invite to connect. If they don’t reciprocate, I feel no shame in forgetting their name.

    Also I’m suspicious of events that don’t provide those very helpful name tags – hangers or sticky-back – indicates they only want to sell us their stuff.

  • yippee1999

    I’m terrible at remembering names and so I justs come right out and admit it. Often I’ll see the same people once a year, at a party. We’ll have a conversation, and then as soon as I’ve left the party, their name goes right out the file cabinet of my brain. And then I’ll see them again a year later. So I just say ‘Hi, I’m Lisa…I don’t know if you remember me…I know we’ve met before but I am really bad with names…Ii’m sorry (can you give me your name again?)…’

  • Giorgi Jashiashvili

    I think I’m lucky that my name is George, I’m from republic of Georgia and did my studies in the state Georgia USA, which means nearly 95% of people I meet for the second time go like: “I know you, you are George from Georgia- Georgia right?” 😀

  • Revy Prameshizta

    Great tips, I have problem with remembering people’s name too (so glad I’m not alone in this world :D). I usually repeat their name after they mention it. Sometimes people mention their name once again after I repeat their name. So I will hear their name about three times in a minute and it should be enough for my brain to memorize them.

  • Debbie Hale Shields

    I remember peoples names by taking a minute to immediately associate their name with something.
    Recently, I met Chester. His chin always is near his chest, so is easy to remember. I also met Dorothy. Dorothy wears sunglasses all the time, even indoors. I associate her name with a D. She “dares” to wear sunglasses all the time. Dare and Dorothy help me to remember. I met a Juanita. I immediately associated her with Barney on Andy Griffith singing “Juanita” on the phone to a lady named Juanita. I met Sharon. She is always “sharing” things. So thus, Sharon and sharing help me.
    Its needful to do this power of association IMMEDIATELY upon meeting them, before you go on to another topic in your mind.

  • Awesome

    You can always ask if they have any funny nicknames their friends call them. They will usually say their name somewhere in there. For example, I could not remember this girls name and when I asked her, she started by saying, “we’ll Steph of course. But my friends call me…” Letting me know her name was Stephanie. This almost always works.