Last week a colleague sent me an e-mail asking my help on how to handle an uncomfortable situation in which she had found herself. Here is what she said, “I need your advice. I was just eating ice cream at a local shop and a woman seated across from me said ‘Hi Rosemarie!’ I looked at her, returned the greeting and proceeded to carry on a conversation with her as if I knew her. All the while I was hoping to remember how and where I had met her. Finally she said she had been in my audience when I spoke to a particular group.”
My friend, Rosemarie Rossetti, is a national speaker and is in front of large audiences on a regular basis. She is extremely personable so she interacts with many of the people who attend her speaking events. To underscore the obvious, it is much easier for an audience member to remember the speaker’s name than for the speaker to recall a name and a face from out of a crowd. It’s even harder when time has passed and the surroundings have changed.
Rosemarie went on to say that she had discussed this with her husband later that day and asked him what she should have done. He suggested that Rosemarie could have said to the woman at the outset, “Hi! Your face is familiar, but I am sorry that I can’t remember how we know each other.”
Rosemarie’s husband was absolutely right. That would have compelled the woman to introduce herself and let Rosemarie know how they had met.
How many times have you found yourself in a similar situation? Someone calls you by name, starts a conversation and you have no clue who the person is? We have all been there and rarely do we respond, as we should by confessing immediately that while the face is familiar, we can’t remember the name. Instead we let the conversation continue, only halfway paying attention to what is being said because our brain is frantically searching the cerebral files for a name. Given that most of our mental files are over capacity anyway, the search takes hours and hours.
Somewhere in the middle of the night when all else has quieted down, we get the wake up call with the message that says, “John Doe. That was John Doe from the meeting last month.”
We all need to learn a lesson from Rosemarie’s dilemma. When other people don’t introduce themselves and make some assumption that we remember who they are, don’t hesitate for a second. Immediately ask to be reminded of their name. It is always a blessing if we can recall something about how we met the person and can say, “I remember that we met at the United Way Luncheon, but I have forgotten your name.” If you can’t come up with a time or a place, don’t let that stop you.
The other lesson to be learned here is to always take the initiative and introduce yourself to people who may not remember you. Give others a gift—the gift of your name. They will be grateful to you for it. If they haven’t forgotten your name, it’s not an issue. If they have, you will rise to the top of their list of considerate people. You may not receive a handwritten note of thanks, but those people whom you have saved from an embarrassing situation will appreciate the gift of your name.
Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.
Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions. Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.
Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.