How to Find Out Someone's Name That You Have Forgotten

Two Methods:Getting Someone to Reveal Her NameEmploying Detective Skills to Discover the Name

Forgetting someone's name can be awkward, but it doesn't have to result in embarrassment. It's a very common situation to find oneself in - it's probably happened to everyone at one time or another. A psychological study suggests that a person's name is the least memorable aspect of what we're likely to recall of a new acquaintance - more forgettable than their job, their hometown, or their hobbies.[1]The best thing to do when you realize you've forgotten someone's name is to realize that there are things you can do to repair the situation.

Method 1
Getting Someone to Reveal Her Name

  1. Image titled Find Out Someone's Name That You Have Forgotten Step 1
    Ask them for their contact information. Depending on the situation, it might be appropriate to ask someone to exchange business cards with you. Their business card will usually contain her name, in addition to other contact information.[2]
    • Even asking for a person's email address often results in learning her name. Many people have their names as part of their email address.
    • You can ask them to enter their phone number in your phone. They'll likely enter both first and last names, along with her number.
  2. Image titled Find Out Someone's Name That You Have Forgotten Step 2
    Introduce the person to another person. If you're in a social environment with other friends, there will likely be other people you know. Take this opportunity to introduce someone whose name you know to your new friend.
    • When you introduce your friend to the person whose name you've forgotten, there's a good chance that the person will then introduce herself to the new person.
    • Once you've heard the person's name, repeat it so that you'll be more likely to remember it. You might easily work this into conversation by saying, "I'm sorry, (name), I'm sorry I forgot to introduce you."
  3. Image titled Find Out Someone's Name That You Have Forgotten Step 3
    Introduce yourself again.[3]If the person hasn't approached you, initiate interaction by introducing yourself. She'll likely reciprocate by introducing herself. She'll also be likely to appreciate your directness.
    • If you ask what her name is, and don't want to admit that you've forgotten her name, you can say you meant to ask what her last name was.[4] The reason this works is because the person will rarely expect you to remember her last name, and she'll usually reply by saying her first name.
    • Ask whether she goes by her first or her middle name. People will often respond to this question by sharing both names, and even offering more information. For example, she might respond by saying, "I was always Emily Jane to my grandmother, and when I was a kid, everyone called me Emily. But when I came to college, I decided to use the name Jane."
  4. Image titled Find Out Someone's Name That You Have Forgotten Step 4
    Ask the person for additional information about her name. People often are flattered by this attention, and may enjoy sharing particular details about their name's history.
    • Asking them how their name is spelled is one way to do this, particularly if you recall that it might be an unusual name. Of course, if the name is Smith or Jones, you might have to be prepared with a diversion!
    • You can also ask the meaning of the name, or about the geographical origins of the name. People are generally happy to talk about themselves in this way, and you'll have more details to help you remember their name should you forget again!

Method 2
Employing Detective Skills to Discover the Name

  1. Image titled Find Out Someone's Name That You Have Forgotten Step 5
    Ask another person for help. In a social setting, ask the host or hostess. If the other person has signed in, ask if you can see it. You can explain your reason to the host or hostess simply by confessing your situation.
    • Ask a friend. If you're attending a social gathering, chances are that someone else in the room knows the person's name. Discreetly ask a friend what the person's name is. If you don't get a chance to ask your friend during the social gathering, ask them later.
    • If you're in a bar, restaurant or other public setting, and person seems to know the location well, people who work there may know the person's name. Ask them to help you. You can explain your situation by honestly confessing that you've forgotten the person's name. Usually, people approached in such a manner are eager to help.
    • Eavesdrop on their conversations with others. The person may introduce himself to other people over the course of your time together.
    • Keep alert for any printed material that might have the person's name on it. If you're attending a seated dinner, for instance, you will have place cards. If you're at a trade gathering, the person may have printed materials that he's sharing with others.
  2. Image titled Find Out Someone's Name That You Have Forgotten Step 6
    Search online. This is easily done by retreating to a private place, and pulling out your smart phone. Most people have sufficient information about themselves online that online search engines will often reveal someone's name by entering in the information about the person that you do have. Enter the information that you have about a person (the city in which he lives, his college or workplace, any other affiliations that you can think of).[5]
    • Once you've entered in all the information you can think of about the person into a search engine, search by "image" to narrow down your results. After all, you know what the person looks like - particularly if you're still with him!
    • Social media sites will use your shared information to find the person quickly, particularly if you have many shared friends. Facebook's "People Search" can often help, if you remember any part of his name.
    • Search for him online by their phone number. Many sites, such as White Pages, 411, or AnyWho, will provide a person's profile through their phone number. Entering the person's phone number into an online search engine, such as Google, Bing or Yahoo, will result in lots of results. These are filtered by relevancy, so you'll only have to check out the most likely options, listed at the top.
  3. Image titled Find Out Someone's Name That You Have Forgotten Step 7
    Wait for the person to reveal his name. While you're waiting, perhaps you'll remember his name. Talk about other things, which don't require names.
    • Use verbal work-arounds to avoid saying the person's name. Use the phrase, "my friend" or "my colleague" if you have to refer to the person.
    • In certain cultural settings, generic endearments may be appropriate. For example, some people choose to use the terms, "sweetie," "darling," or "pal."[6]Be very careful before employing these, though, as they are culturally specific. If these terms aren't commonly used within a particular culture, they might be misunderstood.
  4. Image titled Find Out Someone's Name That You Have Forgotten Step 8
    Confess your situation to the person. Most people will be understanding, and won't mind telling you their name a second time. You can use this opportunity to tell them your name again as well.
    • Use a casual tone of voice when you ask what her name is. For example, you might say, "Hang on, I've already forgotten your name. Would you mind saying it again?" or "I'm totally blanking on your name for some reason." The other person will likely appreciate your honesty.
    • You might add, "I'm not good at remembering names," so that the person will not assume that knowing her name isn't important to you. If this is a potential business contact, however, don't add this, as it will perhaps seem like a potential liability.
    • Blame your forgetfulness on your age. Most people experience worsening memories, particularly for names, as they age.[7]


  • Remember, this is a common social faux pas. Most people have forgotten names from time to time. Adding the stress of feeling anxious about your own forgetfulness won't aid your memory. Instead, stay calm, and recognize that you're only human.
  • If you experience more than usual difficulty remembering names, consider seeing your physician. A thorough physical exam can help discern other things that might be contributing to memory loss, such as medication side effects, depression, and stress.[8]

Article Info

Categories: Conversation Skills | Social Gatherings