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Life skills: You still don't know your longtime neighbor's name. Is it too late to ask?

By Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: One of your neighbors has greeted you by name for years, and you never got around to asking for a refresher on his name. Is it too late to ask now?

A: Oh my, if it has truly been years of greeting one another, then this is quite a conundrum.

Generally speaking, it's best to get in that name refresher ask no later than the second or third time you meet someone. It's very easy to forgive at that point, and almost everyone appreciates when you not only get the name right, but also say it correctly. If you only know the person's name on paper, never be afraid to ask how to pronounce it, first or last name. I think every one of us appreciates it when people get our name right.

But with years gone by, it really is too late to ask. I'm not sure there's any way you would escape offending your neighbor, and I think you would likely feel the same if the situation were reversed.

Your best bet is to ask a mutual neighbor and hope that person knows the name and your error is not found out. Another great tip is to introduce someone you know to your neighbor, using your friend's name, and hope the neighbor then offers his name. This is a true gem when it comes to those social situations where you just can't remember that colleague's husband's name!

- Courtney Fadler, etiquette expert and founder of CF Etiquette

A: As someone whose name's pronunciation always gets butchered, I'd much rather have someone be straight up and ask me for my name, even after years of living next to each other, than continue to call me by the wrong name or no name at all.


However, if you're like me, you'll most likely spend more energy stressing out about the situation instead of just being upfront. What if he gets offended, especially after years of caring for your dying Ikea plants while you're on vacation, gifting you tomatoes from the garden, or baking you holiday cookies that you don't end up eating?

Thankfully, the phone trick is an easy way to get someone's name. Let your neighbor know that you recently got a new phone and would like his number. This will prompt him to put his name into your contacts. It's effortless, and no one's feelings get hurt.

If you live in an apartment building where packages get delivered in one spot, you could also keep an eye out for any packages sent to your neighbor. Although this method is somewhat creepy, you'll be able to get the name by peeking at the label.

In my case, I learned my neighbor's name by matching with him on Tinder. For a moment, it felt like the beginning of a rom-com until he ghosted me. I would advise that you never swipe right on your neighbor, no matter how cute he may be.

- Phillipe Thao, amateur time-waster and writer

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