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Don’t Succumb to the Tartle

By: Bonnie Coffey


Like you,—admit it!—I read goofy, non-pertinent, zany postings on Facebook. With a crazy schedule, it provides comic relief and, occasionally, a grin. I mean, really—wouldn’t you smile at a dog just out of a shower whose monologue about this insensitivity is being narrated by its owner? Occasionally, something pops up that is absolutely priceless.

In a post about words that are used in other parts of the world, one jumped up and caught my eye: “Tartle.”
Used by the Scots, “Tartle” is that “moment of panic when you are introducing someone and realize you’ve forgotten their name. We’ve all done it, but this particular social embarrassment is so common in Scotland, they decided to give it its own name.”
“Tartles” are common challenges in face-to-face (F2F) networking, and one that causes not a small amount of angst amongst those who want to become successful in building successful relationships. The average name exchange takes less than five seconds. No wonder we have a hard time remembering people’s names! So, instead of thinking about trying to become the carnival side-show memory act who can remember 100 items that people pull out of their pockets, think of the name exchange as an opportunity to LEARN your conversational partner’s name. Here are tips on how you can avoid tartling:
  • When your partner gives their name, repeat it! Most of us think this is a pretty good idea—but only 25% of us actually follow through. Saying the name aloud provides reinforcement to your brain to remember the name.
  • Make it a goal to introduce your new contact to at least one other person at the event—using the name immediately helps you remember it.
  • Ask for their last name again and repeat it. One good way to accomplish this is, “Tell me your last name again.” There are a couple of reasons for this strategy: in a crowded room, there is a lot of ambient noise and it’s often difficult to hear someone’s name distinctly; and because people are so used to giving their names that they say them quickly, this question gives them the opportunity to repeat it clearly and distinctly.
  • Ask about the name again so you have yet another opportunity to say the name again. Think about, “Do you like to be called Jenny or Jennifer?” “Crowe—is that with an “e” on the end?” “Is that Carl with a ‘C’ or a ‘K’?” Again, another reinforcement.
  • Boldly and proudly look at the name tag—they’re there for a reason! 77% of us are visual learners, so focusing on the nametag adds another booster to your brain.
  • If the name is one that is unfamiliar to you and you think you might have a difficult time pronouncing it, don’t simply gloss over the situation. This is the ideal time for you to learn something new by saying, “Teach me how to say your name!” You may not get it right the first time, but your conversational partner will absolutely appreciate your willingness to try.
  • Set a goal for yourself for the networking event, perhaps to meet and remember the names of six people.
Use these tips to be confident and competent at your next networking event. Guard against the dreaded tartle!
Published: July 10, 2014

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Bonnie Coffey

Bonnie Coffey is a business and community leader and, as a Certified Trainer and Associate with Contacts Count, LLC, she teaches the skills and strategies of face-to-face (F2F) networking for professional and personal success. Her far-reaching career has impacted business, political, financial, and leadership organizations throughout the country. Her client list includes AARP® Foundation, Heinz Family Philanthropies, U.S. Department of Labor–Women’s Bureau, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, American Chemical Society, Decorating Den, American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), McCombs School of Business/University of Texas at Austin, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Union Pacific. She’s been featured in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, Creative Training Techniques, Women in Business and has been a columnist with the Lincoln Journal Star since 2001.  Her book, “Dreams for Our Daughters,” embodies her belief in the future of our next generation of women leaders.

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