Forgot a new co-worker’s name? This could be an opportunity to establish a positive relationship.

Meeting new people is a constant part of my life, whether it is through new jobs, social events, 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.

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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 this.  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 new co-worker with a similar appearance.  However, admitting my forgetfulness and asking for their name again help 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 this fundamental trait of a person, they recognize my sincerity in respecting them and understanding them.  This is, of course, only the first step and a very small step, 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, just admit it, ask for it again, and you will likely be able to flip the situation into something positive.

Your thoughtful comments are much appreciated!

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