Ever run into an acquaintance you’ve met several times before and realise you’ve forgotten their name? You stand there, discussing your lives, families or the office gossip while you secretly try to remember if his name is Steve or Paul (or maybe Dave?) and hope that he somehow drops a hint.
This happens to me a lot, usually during job interviews when the combination of adrenaline and nervousness hinders my ability to remember basic details, like my interviewer’s name.
In some instances, honesty is probably the easiest answer. Telling someone you’re bad with names and asking them point-blank isn’t a terrible idea if you’ve only met once or twice before; a simple “I’m sorry, I’m not great with names. What’s yours?” will suffice. In other instances, like a job interview or you’ve met them several times, had lunch, and even celebrated birthdays together, it probably wouldn’t look good to ask them for their name at this point.
On a recent Reddit thread, users offered advice on how to find out someone’s name without making things awkward. U/GrahamCr5ck3r offered a good suggestion: Hand them your phone and ask for their contact information—hopefully, they’ll fill in their full name. I would preface this request by proposing getting together for coffee or lunch, just to make the question feel less random. If this is in a job interview or other professional setting, ask for their email address instead which should hopefully contain at least part of their name (or ask for a business card).
If you may have exchanged contact info before, u/lurkerspeaks used another strategy when he ran into an acquaintance. “Told him to send me a text because I got a new phone and lost my contacts (I didn’t),” he wrote. “His name popped up on my phone screen. Felt like James Bond.”
And if that fails and you’re in a social setting, introduce this person to someone you do know, as our social media editor Tim recommends. From his experience, chances are that this person will introduce themselves to your friend, saving you from the discomfort of asking for their name. (Tim, my name is Josh. We’ve worked together for at least a year.)
If you’ve come this far and still haven’t learned their name, ask them to add you on Facebook (or even LinkedIn) in the moment or do the reverse and hand over your phone so they can add themselves; even if you’re already friends, at least they’ll identify their profile so you can save yourself from the awkwardness of asking their name.