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On Remembering Names

weather: mostly cloudy
outside: 4.8°C
mood: ...
I've never been really terrible at remembering names to begin with, but occasionally I used to.

I took a Study Skills course in the summer before my first year of University... many many moons ago. One of the topics that we covered was on Memory. Terry, the instructor, said something very profound that I take with me to this very day:

"If you don't remember someone's name, it means you didn't bother to learn it in the first place."

I was a bit put off by that at first, as I'm sure the other participants were as well. But on reflection, I realize that I was offended because it was true and it hit too close to home.

Brain damage aside, it's literally impossible to forget the name of someone who is important to you or has some kind of meaning to you, whether positive or negative. You'll always remember the names of people you like; you'll always remember the names of people you hate.

It, then, becomes a matter of having respect for people and valuing them enough that they have a name in your mind. No one deserves to be a nothing even for the short time they spend interacting with you. Admitting out loud that "I'm bad with names" is tantamount to saying "You're not important to me; you're not worth it for me to even bother trying to remember the ONE key piece of information about you."

No it's not a fashionable thing to say. It's not a favorable trait to have. It's an excuse. And a really terrible one at that.

Once I accepted that truth and began to consciously value people the moment I met them, every single name that I actually learned, stuck.


Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
bride
Feb. 16th, 2006 02:18 am (UTC)
Write it on your palm with your index finger? =)
nicosian
Feb. 16th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC)
i deal with so many people in a day that I don't recall names unless there's something distinctive about them, just something.

I remember faces easily but names? It's not anything to do with "i don't care" so much as it takes me 3 or 4 interactions to start remembering name to face.



chenpion
Feb. 16th, 2006 02:26 am (UTC)
Really?
I have difficulty remembering names too...

I've been trying to institute the stuff I've read from Never Eat Alone (a book that pjammer recommended in one of his posts)... in one of the chapters, it was talking about how Clinton writes down names, little facts and trivia about each person he met.

If you're very big into networking, that's important, but I don't know about 'normal' stuff...

What's your trick for remembering names (besides 'respecting' them =P)
bride
Feb. 16th, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
Re: Really?
I find that the things we remember best, we have no real answer as to how to do it. We just do.

How does a French-speaking person remember which verbs take "être" for the passé composé? If you ask them, they'll tell you they don't know, they just do.

Do as Clinton does. Write down names, where you met them, facts about them. If that's how you solidify and internalize who they are in relation to you, then that's how you should go about it. I just "get to know them" and that's enough for me to remember their name.
ntang
Feb. 16th, 2006 02:36 am (UTC)
What do you mean by consciously respecting people?

I mean, in a practical sense, what does that entail? I have a terrible memory for details like that; I have so much in my mind most of the time that I can't keep track of things, and I don't honestly believe that it's literally impossible to forget the name of someone who is important and/or has some sort of personal meaning to you. I forget my own home phone number sometimes, and it's not unusual for me to have to sit and think for a second to remember my own birthday. I've blanked on the names of actual friends of mine from time to time. I sometimes stumble over my home address. It's not that those aren't important to me, but it's simply that my mind is overloaded.

Maybe I'm just making excuses, but I don't honestly know how to fix it. I don't think I forget things out of a lack of respect or caring for them. The problem is I'm juggling so much I can't keep track of it. Writing things down helps, but then I'm not really remembering them - I'm just taking notes and referring to it. I doubt if many people would be thrilled if I had to pull out a notebook each time I talked to them to look up their name - not to mention the fact that if I can't remember their name, I won't know what entry to look up. ;)

I tend to be a kinetic and/or visual learner. I can often remember peoples' faces, what I've done with them, etc., but things like names and birthdays just disappear. I've never found a solution to this, other than to just avoid using details like that whenever possible so that I can't be caught having forgotten them. (Which I *know* is a bad solution, but tends to be the path of least resistance.)
bride
Feb. 16th, 2006 02:53 am (UTC)
Maybe you have a different Primary Key for identifying people ... Sorry... =}

I think I've even made an effort to not remember people by their face because sometimes, I can't tell some people apart. Faces also change with time. Names usually don't.
karinakarina
Feb. 16th, 2006 03:44 am (UTC)
It annoys me when people say "whatsherface" or "whatshername" because they can't remember the names. It just seems rude.

"If you don't remember someone's name, it means you didn't bother to learn it in the first place." I like that a lot.
kalev
Feb. 16th, 2006 08:26 am (UTC)
One thing I came across at some point was that people are simply making themselves bad at remembering names by saying "Oh I'm terrible with names..."

Once I stopped focusing on how bad I ostensibly was at remembering names, I got a LOT better at remembering them. Helps to dump the negative reinforcement.

I never seem to have trouble remembering the names of hot guys, though, for some reason... :)
(Anonymous)
Feb. 16th, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC)
Agreed! I mean, I teach about 600 kids. In general, I know the name of every charismatic kid, every outspoken kid, every incredibly misbehaved kid. But then there are the kids who come to class and kind of make themselves invisible. They don't stand out, at least in my class, and there are a couple who I have taught for a couple years and still have to think abou their names.
qmrq
Feb. 16th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
Train your memory. There are books on the subjects, and the benefits are amazing.
pixie_bebe
Feb. 16th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)
I will have to churn this in my head a bit. I am terrible with names. So much so that I make it a point to document when I've met someone so I have a point of reference. Thinking about it lately, I have to admit that the times when I do remember names, it's because they really struck a chord with me, they had something really memorable that made them stand out from the gazillion pieces of info that inundate me every day.

This seems like a different problem though than another problem I have - which is a tendency to forget names when I am the one making introductions. Even like my best friend or people I have known for years! Very embarrasing...
raisinberry
Feb. 17th, 2006 03:50 am (UTC)
Thank you for the quote. It is "offensive" since it does hit home.
(Deleted comment)
kalev
Feb. 19th, 2006 04:11 am (UTC)
I've read that when we get introduced to people, we are subconsciously more interested in hearing ourselves say our own name than we are in actually hearing the other person's name, so that our attention is focused on the upcoming utterance of our own description. I believe the cure for this was, when introduced to someone, to repeat their name back to them.

So:

C: "This is A. A, this is B."

A: "So you're B."

B: "Yes. And you're A?"

Sounds a little silly but it's helped in my case.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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