Tips and Tricks To Use When You Forget A Name


“I always have trouble remembering three things: faces, names and – I can’t remember what the third thing is.”

~ Fred Allen

People love to hear their names. Not in a patronizing, every 15 seconds kinda way. But in a way that says “I know you, I remember you and you exist.”  It makes us feel good! And oh how we like to feel good!

We have ALL been there. We’ve forgotten a name, or two or twenty. And that might be in one day! Even those who pride themselves on remembering names sometimes forget. Oh yes they do.

Why IS IT that remembering names is so dang hard?  I wrote a previous blog on tips to remember names. But…

What DO you do when you forget a name?  How would you answer this question?

Oh no! You forgot that person’s name. How do you handle this situation gracefully?

  1. Confess: I’m sorry. I have forgotten your name.
  2. Make a good guess and call them what you think their name is. They will correct you if you’re wrong
  3. Make a third party intro, knowing that they will probably say their name again
  4. Run around to others at the event, asking who can remember that person’s name


Well?  Your answer(s)?  For those of you over-achievers, breathe deeply. There’s more than one correct answer – namely A and C.  (Haha. Did you get that? “namely”)

A.  Confession works. We’ve all forgotten a name before, so we can usually forgive if someone has forgotten ours.  And don’t get bent out of shape or take it personally when someone forgets your name. It happens.

B. Guessing is typically not a good idea. There’s insult to guessing the wrong name vs. not saying anything at all. Then you put the recipient in the awkward predicament of deciding how and if to correct you on your misstep.

C.  Third party intro’s are most commonly used – especially if you have a wing-man with you. “Hey- Person-Whose –Name-I-Can’t-Remember, this is John. He works with me at the bank.”  At which point John and Nameless shake hands and a re-introduction occurs –and you are listening VERY carefully so you get their name this time around!  If Nameless doesn’t state his/her name, then your wing-man John has a perfect opportunity to say “I’m sorry. I didn’t get your name.”

D. Asking others at an event isn’t always the best idea, but it can work. The words, as stated in answer D, to avoid are “run” and “others.”  Substitute it with “discreetly ask your close confidant” and it could work. You’d never want to embarrass Nameless by letting everyone else at the party know you don’t know his name as you point over at him and the eyes glance his way each time. AWKWARD.

Here are a few additional suggestions:

  • Ask for their last name. Chances are when they state their last name, they will also state their first name too. Not sure why this happens. But it does. I’ve used this one. Easy party trick.
  • Ask for their business card. Say something like “Hey. I’d love to get your card.” Viola – you have their name!

Please share with me what you do when you forget a person’s name. I’d love to hear your tricks and tips – as would everyone else. Please post in the comments section below. Thank you!

And a special bonus for us when we do remember names: It makes us likeable. Likeable  = strong personal and professional relationships = happiness and fulfillment.

A win-win for all.

Mind Your Manners,


  1. Thanks, Kelly! It has taken many years to train Dan to be a proper wingman. 😉

    • Kelly

      LOL! Love it Jackie..and your use of the word “train.” So glad Dan finally caught on and is a proper wingman to you!

  2. Kelly, this is the topic that I get asked about more than mortgages…”How are you so good at remembering names?”

    I actually had to think about it and this is the best I can add to the topic.

    1. The first disconnect is we get so absorbed looking the person in the eye and delivering a firm handshake we forget to listen for the name. If there is a time when I don’t remember a name, that is the most common reason besides I’m getting old.
    2. If I don’t remember the name as the conversation is ending, I will make sure to ask, “What is your name again?”…or “Please tell me your first name again.”
    3. This one is a little harder to explain. In any given day, I will not meet more than a handful of people, so there will only be a handful of names to remember for that day. I then access who introduced me, or where I was introduced, which narrows down the name I have to remember to one or maybe two people. If I only met one male and one female that day…BOOM!
    4. It sounds very simple, but I want to remember names because it does make people feel good, so I go out of my way to lock it in.

    • Kelly

      Brian, Get ready for compliments! Having known you for all these years and watching your success and VAST reach, I can say, without doubt, that your focus on and ability to remember people’s names is ONE of the many things that make you stand out to everyone you meet. You understand that remembering (and then using) a person’s name makes them feel special and helps to build lasting connections. You’re a master relationship-builder and we need to figure out how to turn your magic into gold! Are you blushing? Thank you for sharing your awesome tips Brian!

  3. Kelly,

    Two techniques that I enjoyed reading in your blog were asking for their business card and their last name. I will keep that in mind the next time. Another technique I use is to rhyme their name with something familiar to me.


    • Kelly

      Sheeba, Awesome to rhyme the name with something familiar! The power of association. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Typically I’ll say right up front I forget names (usually when it’s a big event)and I’m not shy about saying, “I’m so sorry, but I forgot your name. Mine’s Deb, what was yours again?”

    What does help is saying a person’s name the moment you get it.

    • Kelly

      Deb, It’s such a great idea to re-state your name when fessing up to forgetting another’s name. Most of the time they have probably forgotten your name too and you are helping them out!

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