It is item number one in a charismatic leader’s toolkit: (1) calling people by their first names; (2) having firm handshakes; and, (3) sharing an interesting anecdote or two about the person they are talking to. Do #1, #2 and #3 and the person you are talking to will feel important. The reason is simple: remembering a person’s name tells him that he is special enough for you to remember him. A firm handshake will seal the impression that you are warm with the person; and; recalling an anecdote about him makes him feel at ease and comfortable.
The most basic of the three of course, is the ability to remember a person’s name. Fail to do it and you will be put in a most awkward situation. At worst, your career may be in trouble.
Imagine if this happens to you.
- You are in a cocktail party with friends and some pretty lady walks up, greets you by your first name and waits for you to introduce her to your friends, but you can’t remember her name!
- You are chatting with some friends, when you notice that a prospective client of yours is walking towards your group. Obviously, he wants you to introduce him to your friends: The problem? You forgot the guy’s name.
- You are running for public office and in the middle of your campaign speech you are supposed to mention a good thing or two about the political leader in the area: and then you realize you forgot his name.
What to Do When You Forget a Name
Most people feel more offended to have someone say their name wrong than simply being asked for their name again. So, my rule of thumb is not to try to guess the name. That leaves me with two choices: to face the problem head-on or to gamble with the situation.
If I decide to be honest, it is as straightforward as this: I will just politely and apologetically say, “I’m terribly sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name. What is it again?” This will spare me from sinking into a deeper hole since the more time we spend together; the more offended he will be when he realizes I don’t know his name.
However, if I will decide to push my luck a bit further, I have the following options:
- The simplest option is to ask the person, “Excuse me, what was your name again?” The person will likely respond with their first name. I then respond with a charming laugh and a smile, and say, “Oh no, I meant your last name.” Of course this little trick can backfire if they respond by asking, “My first or last name?”
- As the person walks up and waits for me to introduce him to my friend, I would say to the person, “Have you met my friend Orly?” Most of the time, the person will say to Orly, “No I haven’t. Nice to meet you, I’m Triccie.”
- When the prospective client is about to join my group, I will turn up to him, stick out my hand, and say my name. “I am Nic. We met at the Ad Congress last month.” They’ll likely respond in kind by saying their name. And if he or she had forgotten my name too, by taking the initiative, I remove their burden of anxiety as well.
- I may also decide not to make any introductions at all. I could just continue to talk, laugh and drink with the person. But before we part ways, I will ask if he has a business card so that I will have something I can take out and review at home.
- Finally, if I were a politician and I forgot a key political leader’s name in the middle of a campaign speech, then I better wiggle my way out of the situation via a joke, a song and dance act or whatever antic that will make the situation light and funny. Failing to do this, I might as well consider backing out of the election contest. Such a situation will not only embarrass the political leader but will also show the crowd how suddenly I forget things – my election promises included.
Alright. Now it’s your turn. What tricks do you use to remember people’s names? Share them with us in the comments.