Networking 101: Best Ways to Avoid Awkwardness When You Can’t Remember a Name

Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project blog, recently addressed the troublesome topic of what to do when you can’t remember someone’s name. These tips may help you in the world of business networking. Here’s a tidbit, and I’ve added my own additional commentary and/or suggestions in bold after each entry:

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 a bit, 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.”
("Stan? Mark? Jack? Samanthaaaaaaa, riiiiiiight…")

2. The “Of course I know you — in fact, I want all your information” dodge:
“Hey, I’d love to get your card.”
("It’s not like I’ll put it in the spokes of my bike when I get home. I mean, come on, what kind of grown man would do that?")

3. The “The tip of my tongue” dodge:
“I know I know your name, but I’m blanking right now.”
("Don’t tell me, because I’m really good at this. Is it Irving? Because you look like an Irving.")

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.”
(You can also take a page from the movie "Memento" and add, "You see, I have this condition…" The sympathy factor is high on this one — doubt you’ll be seriously challenged on it.) 

5. The “Sure, I remember you” dodge:
“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.”
("Thomas, Thomas Thomas.")

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.
(I’ve tried this. Didn’t work for me. The other person didn’t say his name and they both just ended up staring at me. I think I just put my head down and walked to the bar.)

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!
("Oh, you don’t remember me? How about now?" Then do some sort of crazy dance — preferably one that ends with you pointing at the person.)

0 thoughts on “Networking 101: Best Ways to Avoid Awkwardness When You Can’t Remember a Name

  1. That’s great! A helpful hint if you’re in a situation where you’re wearing a nametag, place it on the right side of your chest. This way, anyone who shakes your hand can look at your name as you shake hands without obviously needing the reminder. Us righties tend to place it on our left side.