Don’t you hate it when you see a familiar face, but can’t remember their name no matter how hard you try? These awkward moments can be tricky to navigate (not to mention embarrassing), so it’s best to have a back-up plan in place. If you ever have the terrible realization that you’ve forgotten someone’s name, react in one of these five ways.

Own it.

If it makes you feel any better, most people are just as bad at remembering names as you are. I wouldn’t even be writing this article if that wasn’t the case! That said, you still don’t want to blunder through the situation like a rank amateur. Own it with confidence by saying something like, “Please forgive me, but I have to see a person about three times before I’m able to remember their name for good. Would you care to remind me?”

Don’t panic.

If you’re not confident enough to be so forward about it, that’s okay, too. No matter how you choose to react, the important thing is to stay calm. Worrying about it will just make it harder for you to maintain eye contact and actively listen. A person probably won’t even notice if you don’t use their name during an exchange, but they will definitely notice if you’re so stressed about it that you pay attention to what they are saying.

Helpful hints.

I have to confess that I forget things pretty quickly, so I like to give myself clues that might help me remember a person’s name as soon as I hear it. For example, if I went to a party and met a guy named Harry who mentioned owning a black stallion, I would silently tell myself, “Harry rides horses.” I would also make a mental note of any distinct characteristics about his appearance that jump out to me (it would be awfully convenient if Harry also wore hipster glasses).

Positive spin.

The three tips that followed this one are meant to be used when you’ve forgotten someone’s name who you met very recently, or have only seen on a few occasions spread over a long period of time. I would NOT suggest using those approaches if you’ve forgotten someone’s name that you really shouldn’t have, i.e. you’ve been going to the same school or working at the same employer for many months now — in that case, you need to be more delicate, because they might get upset if you don’t put a positive spin on it. If they are an interesting person you would like to know better, you could use this opportunity to take your relationship to the next level by saying something like, “Hey, I can’t believe I don’t have your phone number yet! Here, I don’t trust myself to spell your name right, so I’m going to let you type it.” 

Introduce a friend.

This situation is much easier to diffuse if you happen to be with a friend who (what’s his or her name?!) hasn’t met. Without missing a beat, march right up and say something like, “Hi, nice to see you! I’d like you to meet my friend Harriet.” Of course, they will then proceed to go through the pleasantries like anyone would when meeting a new person, and you’ll have the opportunity to hear their name again without even having to bring up the fact that you forgot it.

How do you react if you’ve forgotten someone’s name? Share your tips (or fun stories) in the comments. If you’d like to spare your friends some awkward social encounters, make sure to click the share button!

Featured photo credit: Hello, my name is anonymous/Quinn Dombrowski via flickr.com

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