By Lynn Selich
If you’ve ever been at an event with someone whom you’ve known for years (or worse your significant other) and suddenly forget their name just as you have to make introductions, you know how embarrassing it can be. Not to mention the uneasy feeling that perhaps you’re losing your marbles, which is usually where my mind goes when a moment like this happens to me.
Then there is being on the opposite side of the handshake – that of being incorrectly introduced. If I had a dollar for every time someone called me Linda or Liz or pronounced my last name with a hard “k” instead of “ich”, I’d be shopping at Neimans a lot more often than Target.
But I digress….
Because I can sometimes be forgetful, distracted, tired or rushed during events, years ago I began to employ some helpful tactics when I inevitably found myself in these predicaments. Fortunately, I don’t have to use them very often, but knowing to err is human, it’s just part of life. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, don’t worry, it will, so I hope you find these tips useful too.
One proactive strategy when forgetting the name of the person you are introducing is to ask the person whose name you can’t recall, “Oh, do you know Jane Smith?” This typically obliges Jane to take over and the two make their own introductions, also instantly reminding you of the forgotten name.
This works just about every time, but be prepared when the person who’s name you’ve forgotten simply says “Nice to meet you Jane” and doesn’t offer their name in return. In this case, I usually move the conversation in a direction like “I know Jane from such-and-such organization” – to get a conversation started. Typically, once the chit chat begins, eventually Jane will say “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” At which point I give a big sigh of relief and make a mental note of the person’s forgotten name for future reference.
A good way of remembering a person’s name you’ve just been introduced to is to repeat it back: “How do you do Ms. Smith”. This one works for me just about every time because I tend to be an auditory learner. By hearing myself say it, I am better able to put the name with a face in the future.
Then there is the awkward moment when you may have to correct someone after being incorrectly introduced. Best thing to do is to kindly correct the error right away.
This happened to me recently when I was introduced as a columnist for the Daily Pilot newspaper. I took the opportunity to make light of the situation, gently indicating that in fact, I write for OCSocialScene, Newport Beach Independent and the Register, but that if the Pilot would have me, I’d be happy to write for them as well. Heck, I’d be happy to write for every publication in Orange County! We all laughed and the moment gave me the opportunity to whip out my business cards to exchange with the group to whom I was introduced. Win-win.
What about handshaking during introductions? My grandfather taught me this rule as a kid after I reached out first and shook the hand of his golf partner like a surfer dude greeting his bro. Big mistake in Gramps’ eyes.
Thus I learned the following when it comes to handshakes: adults offer their hands to children first. Generally, a woman offers her hand first; an older person initiates a handshake with a younger one; and the more important person, or the person to whom one is being introduced, is the first to offer his or her hand. Imagine meeting the POTUS for example, one would undoubtedly wait for him to initiate the handshake.
And finally, in my opinion, when it comes to introductions, there is nothing like a man who stands when a woman comes in to a room for the first time, and even better remains standing until she is seated after greeting her or being introduced.
Call me old fashioned, but I bet if you ask around, you’ll find a consensus on that one. While I can’t point to any scientific study on the matter, it’s hard to forget a man’s name that makes that small but significant gesture of politeness.