I am a big fan of nametags (see Tag You’re It: Nametag Etiquette). Sans nametags, you are left to recall names on your own. If you’re forgetful by nature, you’ve surely goofed an introduction before, or perhaps forgotten someone’s name after having met them. You never forget a face… but the name that goes with it may be another story altogether.
Well, you’re in luck because Emily Post has some suggestions for the next time you’re in this predicament.
“Don’t panic. Embarrassing as it may be to stumble over a name, don’t fail to attempt an introduction. If the person is attentive, he may see your hesitation and cover for you by introducing himself. If the person is wearing a nametag, you might take a quick peek. Otherwise, you should apologize quickly and say that you’ve suddenly forgotten the person’s name. Do the same if you aren’t sure of someone’s last name. (“I’m sorry James, but I don’t know your last name.”) The person should fill in the blank for you. There’s no need to continue apologizing for your lapse.”
I like her advice, but have some ideas on alternatives to admitting your memory lapse.
When introducing two people, start with the name of the person you do know. “I want you to meet Sandra Smith, she’s a colleague…” Sandra will then ideally introduce herself, eliciting a response from the person whose name you have forgotten.
If the situation is one-on-one, state your name and hope the person returns the favor. Another option is to leave the name out altogether and use a detail you do remember about them, such as “how are things going with your new job?”
These fixes seem simple enough… but on the spot, you might not be that quick on your feet. So say, how do you save face when you’ve forgotten a name?