It happens to all of us. You’re walking along, with your mind on something else, and suddenly a co-worker – maybe a friend – comes around the corner. You stop. She stops. “Hi Eddie, how are you?”
You want to respond “Hi, … y… you—–”“, but instead your mind returns a “HTTP 404: Page not found” or perhaps “Failed DNS lookup.”
Christ. You know you know her name. What the hell is it?
Stop. I know what you’re thinking: Call her attention to a false Patrick Dempsey sighting, then sprint like cockroach in a suddenly-illuminated room.
Don’t do that. Seriously. No need to panic. We’ll take a smarter approach. But let’s freeze the action for a minute and think about why names are important.
In his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie tells us “that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Why? Well, when someone hears their name, they feel important. And by saying someone’s name, you’re making a very basic and genuine acknowledgment of their existence as individual – infinitely more so than the others that pass them by and don’t look or simply smile.
So if a name eludes you, try making them feel important in some other way. Mention a project that they recently worked on. Compliment their clothing (non-creepily of course). Ask about their spouse, their kids.
Just find some way of shifting focus to them in a way that makes them feel flattered and important. And when your head’s name server finally comes back online, mention their name then. It’ll never matter that you didn’t mention it at first.