We have created a social custom in our society, that when we are introduced to someone, we are then supposed to remember said person’s name… Sure there is a grace period in which you are allowed to politely ask for the person to provide you with their name again, which varies depending on who the person is (don’t fuck up your bosses’ name), and how serious that person takes themselves (your boss for example).
It’s inevitable that at some point you will be face to face with someone, experiencing the universally awkward feeling of not being able to recall what the hell their name is. Inevitably, when we cant remember the person’s name, our thoughts tend to shift towards “Oh shit, this person knows that I don’t not know what the fuck their name is!”
I am an expert on those type of situations, as I experience them on almost a daily basis. Some might call it a handicap (I want it to be recognized as one so that I can enjoy the parking benefits), while others might just accuse me of being an aloof asshole that doesn’t give a shit about people enough to remember their names (not true…most of the time).
The truth of the matter is that I am a pragmatic person. Names don’t stick with me unless there is a reason for them to. Sure, I am going to remember your name if I work directly with you. But to the Bill (or maybe its Steve?) who works on my floor, and I am not even sure what he does, there is probably not much of a chance
When situations like this arise, it is helpful to have a plan of action. Yes, there are ways that you can preserve yourself from looking like an asshole, but the key is not to panic. and follow these tips:
1. Match the person’s greeting with equal enthusiasm
This sometimes can be the most difficult tip to master, because it goes against our natural instincts to overcompensate in awkward situations. If the person greets you with a “hey (insert your name)!” you look them straight in the eye and you say “hey how’s it going!” with as close to equal enthusiasm and volume as they greeted you. Too much enthusiasm, and you will be made, while too little enthusiasm will make your brain block easily detectable
2. Do Not Be Overly Smiley
This tip applies to a phenomenon, that is best described as idiot face.
You see, the thing is that when you are uncomfortable, and you try to smile, the smile usually doesn’t come off looking like a real smile, and people can tell. It usually ends up looking like you just ate something sour, or you just smelled a fart that you are trying not to acknowledge.
Instead prepare yourself by practicing your poker face in the mirror before you are about to enter any public forum. Practice imagining that you have just been told that they guy/girl your ex left you for, just lost a hand… That’s right, a restrained smile. It will be difficult at first, but through repetition, you will build great muscle memory, and it will become natural.
3. You can say “man” to another man, or “girl” to another girl, only if you say “whats up man/girl!”
This is all about execution, and trust me it works as I have employed this tactic for years. The way it is done is through proper pacing of the two word phrase. It needs to be said quickly, but not too quickly. If you say it slowly, it will convey the truth, which is that you are saying it slowly as a way to buy you a second more of time, as you furiously rack your brain to decide if the name of of the Pizza guy that stands before you, that you make small talk with on his twice weekly visits to your front doorstep is named “Todd” or “Dave.”
4. Always respond with an open ended question
This is key. Do not leave your response at “heyyy!” or “Good to see you!” Aside from them being phrases of 0 conversational value, they give the person a brief second to think before they speak, which is not want you want… Every second is crucial, so by saying “hows it going” or “hey whats up?” it forces them to direct their brain inward towards a response, and therefore off of you… Its just science really.
5. If you get conversation going, relax and give up trying to figure out their name
This is another tactic in which you will have to fight your natural urge, which is to continue searching your head-space for their name throughout the remainder of your interaction… No. If conversation gets going, you have won. After you say your “goodbyes” is when you should ask yourself “Okay, who the fuck is that?” but during your interaction, you must remain present. The key to acting, is being committed to the character you’re playing, which in your case is a character that knows exactly who the person in front of you is.
6. If someone else that you know is present, Make sure that you introduce him/her to the mystery person right away
This is one that a lot of people manage to blow, so read carefully as I walk you through how to avoid making a critical error.
Say you are in the frozen food section of the grocery store with your significant other trying to decide whether you will be eating a Digorino or a more budget friendly frozen pizza for your dinner that evening, and you are all of the sudden greeted by a semi recognizable face. If you’re sure that your significant other does not know the person, you work her introduction in, in the following way.
You say “hey how are you? (wait for their response) and after acknowledging what ever the hell they said, you say “This is my girlfriend/boyfriend (insert name)!”
This is the only way that you should do it, and you should not attempt to deviate at all. The mistake that some people make, is not making any introduction,because they are used to introducing their significant other to the third party. All you have to do is flip the introduction, and in doing so, you will probably get the other person to volunteer their name to your significant other. Some fear this scenario — however if you do what I said, this will actually be the ideal scenario when faced with this dreadful situation.
Well there you have it. If you are afflicted with the same condition as I am, consider these tips as a masking agent for it. No, knowing these tips will not fix the problem — however they will give you the confidence to proceed in your life with minimal fear of encountering the borderline acquaintances that inhabit your world.