What To Say When You Don’t Remember Them?

I got a great question today from a chef that I thought I would share with you:

I was in a store last week when a person shouted out, “Hi Chef” I faced the person and drew a complete blank.  Not only did I not know this person’s name, I didn’t recognize them at all.  So I smiled and said “Hi I’m fine” and kept on going. 

I was disappointed with my reaction.  Other choices were to stop and engage a conversation and fake it, hoping to pick up a clue to help me remember.  Or to come right out and say, “I’m sorry I can’t remember your name” or say, “I know you but I don’t remember from where.”

What do I do in a situation like this???


A good response in a situation like this is to say something like, “Hi, good to see you.”  Then, start a simple conversation.  For example, if they are in a grocery store, (since this was a chef) ask them what they were planning for their big meal or whatever works in that situation.  The key here is to say “good to see you.”  Clearly, they know you, so you don’t want to say “nice to meet you” because they most likely have met you and will feel put off that you didn’t remember them.  This allows you to start a dialog without being obvious that you don’t remember them. 


OK, I’ll admit it. . . I’ve learned this the hard way – from experience! 

What do you think about this approach or, what have you done in this situation?


10 thoughts on “What To Say When You Don’t Remember Them?

  1. Hi,

    This approach is the smartest way to handle the situation. I would love to follow this way in future.

    Divakar S

  2. I meet lots of people every week and struggle to remember all their names. Using this response really helps. Thanks!

  3. Ivan,
    Thanks for the insight! Today as I visited a BNI chapter “The Chef” shared what a benefit it was to have your response and how much he valued your reply. As we grow into our years and expand our networks this situation will happen to many of us. This information will help us all maintain and expand our credibility during these situations!

  4. A “How are you?”, “What have you been up to?” or “Tell me what is going on in you life?” usually lets people know you care and can also trigger just the thing you need to know about them to remember where you know them from.

  5. When I don’t remember someone’s name, I appologize and say,”I’m sorry, I’m having a senior moment and don’t remember your name. Please excuse me”. It always works in a nice way.

  6. In response to Networker, I always have the person I am with introduce themself before I have a chance to do so, that way we both find out who we are talking to without the other party knowing I did not remember.

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