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NOMEN OBLITUM

A question from the absent minded:

Is it that bad to forget someone’s name?  I’m terrible with names, and sometimes people get really mad at me.  What can I do to make people feel better?

LISTEN:

You could start by remembering their names.  That should do it.

Second, you could stop telling yourself you’re terrible at names.  Psychologically, you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by constantly reinforcing your deficiency to yourself.  From an etiquette point of view, it’s just a crap excuse.  Cut it out.

And yes, forgetting someone’s name is one of the top ten etiquette sins one can commit.  And just like eating with a fork or learning a language, it’s going to take work to master.

Here’s how you do it:

Whenever you meet someone new, attach something ridiculous to them that corresponds with their name.

Say you meet someone at a cocktail party, in or near the kitchen.  Her name is Jessica.  Jessica, like Jessica Lange, and there’s a range, right near the oven.  Jessica Range.

Or you meet a guy name Scott, and he has a floral tie.  Like a flower pot – Scott.  Whatever – it doesn’t matter, just associate anything ludicrous with the name and you’ll be able to remember it in the future.  Especially if you say it a few times to yourself…but don’t sit there and mumble.  That’s creepy, if not quite rude.

Look, no one expects you to go to a cocktail party or a meeting and remember everyone’s name right off the bat.  At a meeting, at least, you can write down everyone’s name on a piece of paper as you’re introduced.  But if you’re at a dinner party and introductions are made and you have a long conversation with someone…yeah, you need to remember their name.

Shouldn’t you be writing this down?

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