Sooner or later you will find yourself in the awkward situation of not remembering someone’s name. Even worse, they know your name and, no matter how hard you try, you can’t remember theirs!
There is no shame in feeling bad when this happens – but you can quickly solve this situation if you know how to handle it. There are no magic tricks to solve this issue.
The bottom line is you’ll have to ask their name one way or the other. It’s not about what you say but how you say it. You’ll have to approach the situation in an honest, humorous way.
Combine both honesty and humor and say something like “I’m so sorry, I’m terrible with names. Could you remind me your name? I’ll be sure to remember it the next time I ask”.
You’ll both share a laugh and move on!
How do I ask when they already know me by name?
Don’t make it a big deal
Not remembering someone’s name is going to feel bad. It puts you in a bad place and that’s exactly when you’re bound to make bad decisions. Don’t rush yourself into taking terrible actions that you’ll soon regret. Instead, take a deep breath and relax.
You’ll soon realize that not remembering someone’s name is not a big deal. That’s when you should take action. You’re both talking like you usually do and you casually ask their name.
“My mind’s gone blank, I’m trying to say your name but I can’t remember it no matter how hard I try!”.
That’s when you’ll get your answer and move on.
Once you know the name, don’t mention the little incident again. First, because you don’t want to remind people you have forgotten their name. Second, because they probably forgot about the whole thing a minute later – it’s not that big of a deal!
If possible, laugh about it
You’re probably feeling a mixture of shame and anger at yourself because you have forgotten their name. And you’re probably beating yourself up because they remember your name and you can’t remember theirs.
This scenario might seem too harsh to make a joke but that’s exactly what you have to do.
You need to add humor into the mix to make the situation seem lighter than it is. That way your brain will think it’s something you shouldn’t take seriously, allowing you to relax and think clearly. And because every social mishap is better with a little humor!
Approach the situation with something like:
“I’m so bad with names I’ll probably ask you mine next time we meet!”
A little joke will defuse any bad undertone.
Be completely honest about it
The worst thing you can do is act like you know the name and mouth initials until you think you have it right. Another bad thing to take a wild guess – that’s the rude option you should never use.
If you’re not sure, ask!
If you guess and miss, you could make the situation worse – especially if you’re on a date.
If you can’t remember their name, admit it, and ask. Add a little humor to lighten the mood and you’ll be good.
If you feel too ashamed to admit it, try this
Some people feel ashamed when they forget a name. That’s okay. It could be you as well. You can play it cool and get people to tell them your name without them knowing what’s going on. This is a silver bullet kind of thing – you can only use it once.
Let’s say you’re with an acquaintance you haven’t seen in a long time. Make a little bit of small talk and, as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, ask them their name. They’ll probably ask you if you have forgotten it, to which you’ll quickly reply “Not your first name, your full name – I’m just curious“.
Now you know their first, middle, and last name. Don’t forget them!
Once you know the answer, forget the whole thing happened
Forgetting someone’s name is a bad spot – but it’s one you can quickly get out of. Once you’re done and know the other person’s name, it’s time to move on.
Don’t dwell on it, don’t try to think why you have forgotten. Make an effort to remember the name and forget you have asked.
You should focus on doing this for one reason only. If you start to stress out about the situation after you’ve asked for their name, your mind will begin to race and forget recent information – that’s right: you’ll forget the name once again if you don’t play your cards right!
Should I feel bad if I don’t remember someone’s name?
Realize it happens and don’t stress
Everyone forgets a name at least once in their lifetime. You’ll probably forget plenty of them by the time you reach old age! Don’t worry about it.
It’s not about never forgetting anything but it’s about handling yourself the right way when the situation arises.
We have no way of controlling what we remember and what we forget. There’s no reason to beat ourselves over because of it.
If you start berating yourself because of a little mishap, you won’t know how to handle yourself when you ask for their name again – and that’s not what you want to do!
Nobody is going to make you feel like the bad guy for it
A little perspective always helps: it’s not that you forget names alone, everyone does. Your name was a dizzy spot in someone’s mind at least once. And you probably never realized it!
Most of the time, someone won’t even realize you don’t remember their name.
And if you ask, they’ll quickly forget about the whole thing altogether.
What’s more, when you ask someone their name for a second time and confess, you’re not that good with names, they’ll tell you they are not that good either! It’s a common mishap. An embarrassing one, for sure, but everyone has gone through it once.
Nothing is going to happen because of an honest mistake
Another thing you should keep in mind is that you’re not committing a crime or a terrible act. You simply forgot a name. Feeling terrible about it is enough punishment as it is.
Nobody will look at you the wrong way because you don’t remember – why beat yourself up over it, then?
Think about it like this: How would you feel?
Let’s say someone forgets your name. If you think hard enough, you can probably come up with at least one time where it happened to you.
That’s the thing: it probably happened to you, but it was such an insignificant incident that you don’t even remember!
If someone forgets your name you’ll simply say:
“Oh. I’m John. Forgetting a name? Yeah! It happens to the best of us!”
And move on. That’s it! It’s not that bad, is it?
What if someone knows my name and I’ve never met them?
Don’t assume you’ve never met
There might come a time in your life where you don’t remember someone’s name and neither do you recognize their face. It might be a stranger trying to scam you or similar – but you shouldn’t assume that’s the case right away.
It might be someone you saw last a decade ago with the same name or a work acquaintance you don’t remember – there’s no reason to get suspicious yet. Maybe it’s someone from high school. You probably need a little nudge to remember it all.
All you have to do is ask and you will go down memory lane!
Click here, to find out how to politely ask for a name on the phone.
Ask point blank where you know each other from
Instead of asking for a name, simply ask where you know each other from. Or when did you two meet? Simple, easy to answer questions that need no effort.
If they remember who you are, they should be able to tell you where from. Once they answer politely excuse your mishap with a “Yes, of course. My mind is scattered today. How are you?”.
Human memory is a tricky thing. But it’s also easy to use if you know how to do it. Sometimes a face or a name rings no memories, but a time and a place could make you remember it all. Try to figure out the context of your relationship and you’ll figure out the rest.
Don’t give out information if you’re not sure who that person is
What you shouldn’t do is answer any questions or fill any open sentences that you might hear.
Unfortunately, con artists and scammers prey on people who are not aware of their tricks and antics. They can make you believe you know each other when you’re the one who’s giving out information.
If they cannot come up with an answer on their own, you shouldn’t provide them with one. Remember: They say they know you, not the other way around!
Don’t get anxious or nervous before you know the details!
You should always give the benefit of the doubt to anyone. Even if they sound or act like con artists, they might be getting nervous because you don’t remember them. They might be thinking they got the wrong person!
Because of that, always remain calm and, most importantly, polite!
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.