The 1 thing you should never do when you've forgotten someone's name, according to a Harvard-trained etiquette expert

Solstock | E+ | Getty Images

Like millions of couples across the U.S., my boyfriend and I have attended a seemingly endless parade of parties this holiday season.

For the most part, I'm really terrific at a holiday cocktail party. I have an array of snappy winter suits, I'm good at making chitchat and I'm happy to order a whiskey drink with a cinnamon stick in it. But these gatherings also tend to expose my one major social weakness: names.

That girl we met at the ballet. My boyfriend's co-worker from last year's holiday thing. That couple we see at gay parties once a quarter. How many men named Jacob can one city have? I'm hopeless.

I'm spending Christmas in Virginia with my boyfriend, his family and lots of people I've met once or twice at weddings. So, I asked etiquette pros what to do to avoid hurting anyone's feelings when I inevitably can't come up with the right name.

"If you've met somebody multiple times but still cannot remember their name, you should never let on that you've forgotten their name," says Sara Jane Ho, a Harvard-trained etiquette expert and host of the Netflix show "Mind Your Manners."

Here's what to do instead.

Add them to your contacts

Etiquette pros say your phone can help get you out of what could otherwise be an awkward situation.

"What I like to do is say, 'I got a new phone recently, and all my contacts were wiped out. Can you put in your number again?'" says Ho.

In fact, if this is a relatively new person, you don't even need to come up with a story. Just tell them you'd like to keep in touch and have them enter in their phone number or Instagram.

The latter is a boyfriend's strategy, which helps him on two fronts. Not only does it get him out of a social jam, but it helps him put a name to the face for next time they run into each other.

Enlist the help of a partner

I'm the only gay person in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area who doesn't have an Instagram account, so I tend to rely on my boyfriend for help at parties — a move approved by etiquette pros.

"If you're at a party, just introduce them to someone else," says Ho. "That way, they'll introduce themselves."

If my boyfriend already knows the person whose name I've forgotten, I try to discreetly ask him or another friend for help: "Remind me the name of that boy in the tank top?"

"You can have a system set up with your partner, so that they jump in if they see you floundering," says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. "If you see someone from across the room, you can ask somebody to remind you of their name. If I'm having difficulty, I ask the host. You just have to prepare."

Sometimes you have to take the L

If you're hosting a party with a mixed group of people, you can save yourself the trouble by having everyone wear name tags, says Gottsman. "It's a great opportunity to take away an awkward moment."

But if there isn't a sticker to read, you're sometimes just going to find yourself going blank on a name you should definitely know. In these situations, tricks such as introductions or handing over your phone may come across as tacky or insincere, as will going with your classic, "Hi, honey," or "Hey, you."

"Just be honest and say, 'Oh my gosh, I know I've met you three years in a row. Please remind me of your name,'" says Gottsman. "That shows that I'm interested and being authentic with you, rather than, 'Hey, what's going on?' That feels fake, and people can read that."

DON'T MISS: Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work & life? Sign up for our new newsletter!

Get CNBC's free Warren Buffett Guide to Investing, which distills the billionaire's No. 1 best piece of advice for regular investors, do's and don'ts and three key investing principles into a clear and simple guidebook.

CHECK OUT: The No. 1 way to respond when your in-laws are rude to you, says Harvard-trained etiquette expert

Copyright CNBC
Contact Us