We’ve all been in those situations where we’ve forgotten someone’s name. It’s even worse when it happens immediately after meeting them.
How do we deal with it without being awkward? Here’s some helpful advice, gleaned from personal experience, online message boards, and advice columns:
Ask them to put their number in your phone. It’s the best way to get their name without even asking for it. Typically, they will enter both their first and last names, along with their number. It’s a great way to stay in touch with them in the future and also to assure you won’t forget their name again.
Introduce them to a friend. At a party or networking event, making introductions is expected. Find one of your friends and introduce them first, then wait for your conversation partner to do the same.
Wait until the conversation ends, and ask a friend. Oftentimes, you can go through an entire conversation simply using pronouns. There’s always someone else at the party who must have either invited this person or who is in the same network — ask them afterwards.
Ask them how to spell their name or for their preferred nickname. It’s not a weird question to ask, especially since names such as Jonathan or Alyssa can be adapted and spelled in so many ways.
Ask for their business card. They should be eager to share it with you, and it’s a great way to keep them in mind in the future. You’ll always know their name without having to ask again.
End the conversation by reminding them of your name. When you’re finished speaking, you can talk about what a pleasure it was to meet them. For instance, you could say, “It was great meeting you. My name is so-and-so. And what was yours again?”
Ask about the meaning behind their name. It’s always fun to learn about why your conversation partner’s parents chose their name. Sometimes, their answers can lead to family histories or fun facts about the origins of words.
Get creative. You could compare ID and driver licence photos, since they’re fun to look at anyway. Or, if you’re really desperate, you could say something along the lines of, “I heard it’s almost impossible to pronounce your own name with a different accent because you’ve used it so much. Can you do it?”
Just be honest. They will appreciate your honesty, because everyone understands it’s difficult to remember names. Just politely and apologetically admit that it slipped your mind or that it’s on the tip of your tongue but you can’t think of it now.
A gentler approach is the “I know your name, but I’m blocked” dodge, where you can say something along the lines of, “I keep wanting to call you David, but I know that’s not right.”
Either way, make sure you do this as quickly as possible — it gets more awkward the longer you wait to ask.