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Confusion Corner: Navigating The Name Game

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March 14, 2016

10:32 PM

“Oh, no! What was this guy’s name?

He looks like a Brian. Or was it Brendan? Wait, now that I think more about it, Adam seems more accurate. I remember meeting an Adam last weekend. However, this guy might be from my econ class — or was it my seminar last semester? He knows me, but I don’t know him. Curse me and my awful memory. I’ll just keep letting him talk and hopefully someone will say his name soon. No, he keeps referring to me by my name! It’s weird if I don’t reciprocate. Ugh, I’m such a horrible person Why can’t I remember anyone’s name?”

Forgetting someone’s name is one of the worst social indiscretions anyone can commit without actively trying to be a terrible person. A more ubiquitous way of deflating one’s self-esteem in a social situation simply doesn’t exist, aside from mistakenly commenting on someone’s pregnancy. Forgetting names can leave you feeling like an uncaring and callous person amongst a sea of saints. Luckily, there is an art to solving this excruciating social situation. You need to lie.

It’s essential that you keep up the delicate facade that you know this person. Confidence is key when it comes to a good lie. It’s just like when you have to bluff your way through a small seminar class that you didn’t do the reading for: don’t let your poker face down, remain calm and stay extremely cocky no matter what. Remember that this is supposed to be someone you know and are comfortable with, so treat them like you do. Be less attentive than you would be to someone you have just met and want to know more about. Do not back down from your fortress of aloofness, even if it seems you are being too detached. Instead, make them turn their guilt inward for being too eager. If you don’t back down from your bluff, then they will believe that they’re the one who is socially inept.

Luckily, there is an art to solving this excruciating social situation. You need to lie.

Next, try to find some biographical information so you can unravel this mystery through context clues. Just like in your neglected seminar, there is an art to asking innocuous questions that don’t draw attention to your state of ignorance. A classic is to ask about how their break went. Their activities may link you to a club or common interest where you could have met them. Going out on a limb may also pay off — it’s risky, but you can casually ask if you ever shared a class by saying something like “did we take (insert GER) together? I can’t remember, it was such a big lecture.” If they say no, remember that you are still operating under the veil of familiarity, so brush it off and stay cool: “Oh you’re lucky, that class sucked. But man, it would have been fun with you in it.” If all else fails, your endgame is to just wait it out until someone else says their name, no matter how long that takes.

Of course, you could always be honest and tell them you just can’t remember their name. They will probably respect you for your honesty, and then you can start to forge a real connection. But that would take emotional maturity, which is way overrated. So I would just keep faking it until you make it — I mean, it works for me. I was good friends with someone without using her name for three years until her mom finally said it. I miss Jennifer … or was it Holly?

Claire … or is it Emily Gardner is a Confusion Corner columnist who would appreciate it if you just introduced yourself up front.

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  • Emily Gardner