I had a fascinating discussion at a meeting last week. I am part of an organization that has been around for over 20 years. Â In the past they had a printed directory but in recent years had stopped printing it. Â I was in favor of continuing in only electronic form but was out-voted so it will once again be printed. Â Talking to another member, she was quick to tell me I would learn to love the printed copy. Â When I asked why, she said she carries hers everywhere and when she runs into someone she should know, she can quickly scan the pictures and find them. That way, they never know she didn’t remember their name.
I have to say – this has never been a problem for me. Â No, I’m not some genius at names, but there are so many better ways to get around this problem! Â I can’t imagine walking into a room, seeing someone, realizing I should know them and don’t, going into a corner and pulling out a book and looking them up. Â Wow. Â But clearly this was really important to her so here are my tips to handling this awkward situation.
First, there is always the honest approach. Â Walk up to the person, say hello and how are you, and then admit you don’t remember. Â I usually follow up with what I do remember – where they work, where we met, their family status, or whatever we discussed. Â You won’t be perfect, but I can’t tell you how many people have answered with their name and then admitting they don’t remember mine either! Â Everyone is in the same boat which is great for further conversation. This is definitely my favorite way to handle it!
Another trick I have used when I need to introduce one person to another is to turn to the person and ask how to pronounce their last name. Â For instance, if you and I were in a conversation and you wanted to introduce me to someone else but couldn’t remember my name, you would say “I’m so sorry – I never remember how to say your last name”. Â I answer, “brightonbutcher” and then generally introduce myself to the new person. Â This is a great trick unless the person’s name turns out to be smith. Â Then you look like a doofis.
You can also look for the name tag as you approach. Â If you know where it is, you can surreptitiously look at it while you greet the person.
Another tactic I’ve used is to enlist the help of a friend. Â The two of us approach a person and after the hellos are out of the way, my friend says “we haven’t met” and introduces herself. Â Then I get to hear the name as well.
The bottom line here is most people will say they aren’t good at names. Â If you can tell them something about them that you do remember, it can make the situation an easy one to get around because they will understand that you remembered things about them, just not their name. Â If the person is such a prima donna they are offended you don’t remember, then clearly they aren’t the right person for you any way. Â After all, what kind of client would they be? Â So don’t get a book of people and feel like you have to be perfect all the time. Instead, admit a little reality into the situation and people will respond well!