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We've all been there, whether it's because they have a similar name, you've had someone else on your mind, or you just are tired and slipped up. It's always horrible calling a friend the wrong name (even worse when it's the same of someone you both know).

How should I respond or deal with calling someone the wrong name? Should I own up, or should I try and pass it off as something else?

Also, for more detail, please assume this question applies to the following - if this makes the question too narrow for the site, please let me know so I can widen it;

  • This is referring to an online messaging system in such a way that the messages cannot be deleted before the recipient has the possibility to see them.
  • I am calling them the name of someone whom they do not know
  • You can also assume (however if it's easier to answer ignoring this you can) that I am able to say/do whatever I need to say/do before they read and reply to the message.

Here is an example of a possible way this can occur:

Me: Well, I think it's time I head of to sleep

Friend (Clara): Well goodnight!

Me: Goodnight Alice!

5

TL;DR

A quick and honest apology has worked best in my experience

  • Amount of apology is case-by-case, person and context dependent

  • Some self deprecating humor goes a long way towards dispelling awkwardness

  • Generally this mistake is not a big deal, so continuing the conversation after the apology/recovery is a good way to smooth things out and make the slight quickly forgotten


As somebody who makes this slip up a lot in face to face conversations with people, my go-to strategy is immediately apologizing and trying to convey my embarrassment, probably with a laugh and some comment/excuse along the lines of "This happens to me with everybody, I'm terrible with names". After that I let it drop, and usually a quick laugh at my expense has patched any momentary offense the mistake may have caused. I feel that apologizing more than necessary can end up implying that a person should be more offended than they are, which doesn't lead anywhere good.

Most of this approach is directly transferrable to text communication, the caveat being you won't be able to gauge body language/facial expression right after the slip up to figure out the necessary level/intensity of the recovery. You'll have to make a judgement based on context and the potentially offended party, and their initial response to your mistake. If you and this person have a deep relationship and have been talking intimately about heavy/important things when you mess their name up, slightly more groveling and patching up may be needed than during smalltalk with an acquaintance. Acknowledging your mistake before they do can also go a long way towards minimizing offense caused.

Me: Well, I think it's time I head of to sleep

Friend (Clara): Well goodnight!

Me: Goodnight Alice!

Me: Whoops Dx, my bad Clara, maybe I should head to bed as well

In most cases a quick apology and a lighthearted conveyance of embarrassment will smooth things out best. Keeping the conversation moving past the mistake will also combat the potential awkwardness of dwelling on the mistake.

Me: Got a big day tomorrow?

In my experience, this is an extremely common mistake among people, so it rarely causes a lot of offense.


As an aside, I tend to avoid using peoples names in communication to avoid this exact issue, if you find this being a mistake you make often, changing your communication style to reduce the use of people's names is one way to just sidestep the problem entirely.

3

Oops wrong person

You could say this if it is a chat system where you can easily switch between people talking. It is not uncommon to select the wrong person and send the message to another person.

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We've all been there, aren't we? Well, it happens sometimes when you know a person with the similar name or similar personality.

I called once my colleague by the name of her sister who I have worked with in previous company. Soon I realized my mistake and just apologized for that.

So, whether it happens while chatting online or talking face-to-face, a simple apology will work. Since you can't see expressions of person in-front, a message with simple apology should work.

Oops! Sorry! Just a silly mistake. Good Night Clara!

You should try to send this message sooner you realize the mistake or possibly before person in-front corrects you. If they corrects you before you could apologize, say like,

Sorry! My bad. I might not be thinking straight.

When you say apology by calling someone by a wrong name, try to include their correct name, so they assume that you didn't forget their name and it was just a slip of tongue or a small mistake.

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