You're walking down the hall, and a familiar face approaches, smiling at you in recognition. You start to panic as you hear your name. Your brain scrambles and fails to give you that critical info:

What's their name?

Image of a sea lion with big remorseful sad eyes overlaid text reads "When someone remembers your name but you forgot theirs"

Don't despair!

Forgetting someone's name happens to everyone. The more pressing concern is:

How do you bounce back? How should you respond and make sure you don't offend the person?

Honesty Really Is The Best Policy

"Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure."

(James Altucher)

  • If it's someone you've only met once or twice, it might be easier to own up.

  • Keep it simple, don't drag it out. Say: "I'm sorry, I've just gone completely blank."

  • Sweeten the deal by mentioning what you do remember about them, "You pitched a great idea at the sales meeting last week when we met."

Gif of a woman standing at a podium bashfully saying, "If I'm holding the truth stick." The word truth is highlighted.

Emphasize that you haven't forgotten the person, "Of course I remember you, but your name has slipped my mind..."

Quiz

Bill runs into a colleague at work but can't remember their name. Which of the following would be the best response?

Who Am I?

If they haven't greeted you by name, it's a golden opportunity!

Gif of Austin Powers smugly saying, "Allow myself to introduce..." *pause* "Myself."

Reintroduce yourself, add some context, and they will do the same.

Jill bumps into a familiar face at the copy machine but can't recall their name. She considers responding in the following ways:

A - Hi, I'm Jill, and I work in HR; we met at the training seminar last week.

B - Hi, I'm Jill, we met last week. What's your name?

C - Hi, I'm Jill; it's good to see you again.

D - Hi, I'm Jill. I forgot your name.

Quiz

Which of the above responses is the most suitable for Jill to reintroduce herself?

Snoop Around!

Gif of cute, bright yellow, fluffy Pokemon character Pikachu dressed as a detective holding a magnifying glass up to his eye.

If you have met several times, it is probably not a good idea to ask for their name. Instead:

  • Prompt your memory by adding some context to the face. Try: "It's been too long. When was the last time we met?"

  • Ask for a business card.

  • Hand them your phone and ask them to enter their email or contact details.

Or, fall back on this trick from lifehack.org.

Text summary: Ask someone what's your name? When they respond with their first name, say no, I meant your last name.

Meet Dave!

If you're lucky enough to have a third person pass by and you know their name, say:

"Why don't you introduce yourself to Dave?"

If you don't know either name, try:

"Why don't you say hello to each other?"

Smug Wonka meme, the top text reads, "Introduce yourselves." The bottom text reads, "No pressure, though."

Don't!

Gif of an angry scary-looking woman aggressively saying, "That's not my name." The word NOT is highlighted in blood red.

Don't try to guess the name!

The only thing worse than forgetting someone's name is calling them by someone else's!

Don't get informal or inappropriate!

Refrain from using unsuitable terms to address colleagues, such as dude, dear, darling, sweetie, etc.

Gif of Michael, the manager from the tv show The Office, smiling and shaking his head, saying: "Nope. Don't like that."

Take Action

Now that you have some savvy tips to help you save face:

And remember, even if you do forget a name...

Gif of a man seriously telling another person, "It's life. It happens."

License:

Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

I feel confident that I can apply what I learned.

I would recommend this Byte.

Connect with Rumie learners

Browse more content and join a supportive community!


- Discord Member

This Byte has been authored by

LY

Lubna Yasin

Design Educator