Etiquette Lesson: Remembering Names

It is both an art and a science. If you weren’t born with a talent for remembering, master it by scientific means. It takes discipline and practice but it can be done, even if you are Mr Forgetful or Mrs Absentminded. Here are some techniques that work for some people taken from ‘The Penguin Book of Etiquette’…

  • Repeat the name of the person you have just met the moment you shake hands. ‘How do you do, George.’ Use the name again in the next-but-one sentence ‘George, I couldn’t agree more.’ Don’t overdo it though! It can be very irritating!
  • Silently repeat the name of the person you have just met 15 times but do not look as though you are adrift in another world and keep your lips still.
  • If possible, write down the name of the person as soon as you can. Some people have to see a name before they can remember it.
  • Associate the name with a rhyme: George. Georgey Porgey pudding and pie… or Mary. Mary Mary quite contrary. Tom. Tom the Pom. Rod. Rod the God… the list goes on. Make sure any irreverence remains unspoken. 
  • Identify the name with a person by thinking of something striking in that person’s appearance: Ruth has red hair; Alan is very tall, Katrina has a fabulous sparkling ring, Joe has a very funny comb-over etc.

Guests who struggle with names are always hoping for a second chance at an introduction to resist embarrassment so a thoughtful host would take an opportunity to repeat people’s names in general conversation. ‘Sandra, I’ve seated you next to Heather,’ or ‘I thought so too, Debra.’

When you are with a friend – say down the street or in a shop – and you are greeted by someone whose name escapes you, on no account disregard your friend when you stop to chatter. You must make some form of introduction. Your best bet are these. Perform a one-way introduction, with ‘This is my work colleague Anna Summit,’ and hope that the stranger will then introduce themselves to your friend.

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