The scientific reason why you should always try to remember people’s names


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There’s nothing worse than the sheer awkwardness of seeing someone you know you know, but not being able to remember what their name is. There’s also the uncomfortableness of being on the other side of things, too: Everyone has had that moment where someone re-introduces themselves to you like you’ve never met before. Either way, forgetting or being forgotten isn’t a fun situation to be in, and the aftermath is just as damaging as you think.

In a small study published in the journal APA PsycNet, researchers had 56 students document every time someone forgot them during a two week period at the beginning of the school year. (Um, fun…) While most of the entries were people forgetting their name, shared experiences, or details like their class year or major, they also logged instances like being confused with someone else or their friends forgetting to meet them somewhere. And those instances—as expected—made the participants feel pretty darn crappy. “It’s such a big deal to admit that you don’t remember a person,” psychologist Laura Kin told The Atlantic. “It’s an insult, even though it’s completely innocent and we have absolutely no desire to hurt the person’s feelings. You just told that person they’re a zero.”

“It’s such a big deal to admit that you don’t remember a person. It’s an insult, even though it’s completely innocent and we have absolutely no desire to hurt the person’s feelings.” —Laura Kin, psychologist

The researchers found that forgetting someone’s name can actually lead to decreasing their “sense of belonging and meaning in the world.” And on top of that, it can damage your relationship (or, whatever future relationship you could have had) because it makes it seem like you don’t care. So, basically, there’s no excuse: You’ve gotta put in the effort to remember.

According to the experts, there are ways to do it so it sticks, like focusing on their name and finding a way to repeat it, focusing on a feature on their face, or linking their name with a person or object already ingrained in your memory. If you’re in an instance where you can’t remember, though, Reddit has a few ways to help beat the awkwardness: Have a friend you’re with introduce themselves to them so you don’t have to make the introduction, or say “what’s your name again?” and when they say their first name, say “Oh, sorry, I meant your last name!” Another sneaky way to do it: ask them to put their contact info in your phone.

Find out three pieces of modern relationship wisdom from rock star psychotherapist Esther Perel. Or, find out the most common source of stress in a relationship—because it’s not what you think.

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