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Forgetting a new name is not an awful fault. Instead of ignoring the problem, just admit it, ask for their name again, and you will likely be able to flip the situation into something positive.

Meeting new people is a constant part of life, whether it is through new jobs, social occasions, or networking events. The first task in establishing rapport with a new acquaintance is to learn their name, yet I sometimes forget it after our first conversation.

Forgetting new names is very common and forgivable, especially if you are meeting many new people at once. However, I notice that most people are afraid to admit their forgetfulness.  Perhaps they are embarrassed or worried that their new acquaintances will feel offended. Thus, they often greet them many times without referencing their name, and this could continue for days, weeks, or even months!

If I forget a new acquaintance’s name, then I take the initiative to admit this when I next meet them, and I ask for their name again. Throughout my professional career, I have never encountered anybody who felt insulted or disrespected as a result of such forgetfulness.  Instead, they usually show kindness and appreciation for my effort. I sometimes have to do this many times before I remember a new co-worker’s name, and I sometimes confuse them with another co-worker with a similar appearance. However, admitting my forgetfulness and asking for their name again helps me to remember their name better. The first part is just as important as the second; admitting my failure is not only an act of accountability, but also a useful device for learning something new.

In addition to the practical benefit of remembering a new name, I find this practice to be helpful in establishing a positive relationship with a new colleague.  Because I am making the effort to remember a fundamental trait of this person, they recognize my sincerity in respecting them and understanding them. This is, of course, only the first step and a very small one, but it creates good momentum, and I can build upon this momentum in subsequent interactions.

If you have faced this problem, then I hope that my experience can provide some assurance to you: Forgetting a new name is not an awful fault. Instead of ignoring the problem, just admit it, ask for their name again, and you will likely be able to flip the situation into something positive.

Beyond the Blog

British Columbia Cancer Agency - Genome Sciences Centre
Statistician
SFU Alumni
Connect with Eric on social media: WordPress, Twitter, YouTube Eric Cai is a former Career Peer Educator at SFU Career Services who graduated in 2011.  He now works as a statistician at the British Columbia Cancer Agency. In his spare time, he shares his passion about statistics and chemistry via his blog, The Chemical Statistician, his Youtube channel, and Twitter @chemstateric. He previously blogged for the Career Services Informer under “Eric’s Corner” when he was a student.  You can read all of Eric's newer posts here.

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