I don’t know another person on the planet as bad at remembering names as me. I can’t use my age as an excuse either.  My first recollection of my incompetency occurred in college. I was so excited for this particular first date.  When I introduced us to my my roommates date, I gushed.  Hi, I’m Mike Moses and this is my date, Jane Still. Total loss of cool. 

Years later I taught a large Sunday School class which included my son and his friends.  Each week I'd  forget some names and would write them on the board so I could  remember them.  One Sunday, after teaching this class for a year, I walked into the classroom and my mind went completely  blank.  I couldn’t recall one name—including that of my son.
Who knows where my mind goes when I meet people and why, two seconds after an introduction, I cannot recall their names.  I am so busy smiling, and thinking of something I like about them, that their name enters some black hole in my brain and disappears.  

Some people practice techniques that are supposed to help. Like this.  Think of the name of the person you just met. Assign that name to something you can relate it to and put it in a silly sentence. Now, does it seem rational to tell someone who can't remember a single name, to change the name you can't remember anyway and then make up and memorize an entire sentence about it?

What if I met someone named Liz and associated her as, Liz the lizard likes leopard leotards. I would probably forget lizard and think,  salamander.   They both soak in the sun. Sammy salamander soaks in the sun, hence Samantha. Even if I did remember the name Liz I would always picture her in leopard leotards. 

If I was required to think all that silly stuff when I met someone for the first time, I would stand there stupidly trying to think of something to think about instead of smiling and saying hello. 

One method I do find effective, when I can't remember a name and don't want to say, "hey you," I come up with a substitute nickname.

"Hey Babe, Cutie, Darlin', or Sweetie.  Hey Stud, or hey Guy are a little more awkward but still better than, hey Whatcherename."  

When I became an author, calling people Babe, Stud, or Cutie just wouldn't cut it when friends asked me to sign their book. I was forced to memorize a different strategy. One that would not make me look like a socially inept freak. 

One day my husband's cousin, I can’t remember his name, approached me with a book that he wanted me to sign. He gave me a big hug and asked me to sign his book.  I smiled and went for my strategy.

“Who do you want me to write it too?”
He gave me an odd look and said. “My wife.”

I gave him a radiant smile.  “How do you spell that?  I want to be sure to get it right." 

He looked at me like my head had turned into a turnip and sprouted horns, and slowly spelled.  S…A…M…
It was one of those, oh where is a 9 point 0 earthquake when you need it.

1 comment:

Patrick Smith said...

The first time I introduced my wife to my mother, I introduced her by the wrong name. Her name is Julianna but I introduced her Julia. A total freudian slip.
Through my exploration of life I've noticed people love to hear 3 things, what time is dinner, I forgive you and their name. Going out of my way I never use pet names or shorten versions of names. How often does my friend will hear hey William. And I make a point to do that. Matthew is spoken clear and to hear my name , Patrick. I always turn.
I once heard if you hallucinate someone speaking out of the static noise that is a crowded room but no one is talking to you, it's a sign of a happy mind. Ready to respond and be heard.
Jane isfeld. It was a pleasure meeting you at the clack county fair. And I'll be checking in on your blog from now on. Hope these words find you inbetween pouring over your words for your next book. A writer writes. That's all it takes. A painter paints. I am an artist. I believe in passion. Your eyes spoke of passion.


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