It's a bit embarrassing when you run into an old acquaintance or friend and the name totally escapes you. Of course, we all resort to the long helooo or hiii or haduuu; often adding some term of endearment to imply familiarity (something like... my dear, girl, etc) or a wink followed by "what's up?". Sometimes we avoid the salutation by asking about some issue or discussing an experience or situation that lets the other party know that we haven't forgotten them. Yes, the connection is still there. Remember this or that? Oh and how is so and so? And isn't it funny that this is usually the person who always knows your full name, not hesitating to respond, Hello (your name..). We sometimes blame our memories, citing the aging process jokingly (hoping that indeed we aren't senile).
Several months ago, I ran into an acquaintance. Someone I'd met a couple of times and spoken with at length. Even laughed with and promised to have a drink or lunch together. And so when I saw her approaching from a distance, my brain immediately went into " memory mode". What is her name? I remembered when, where and how we met, who introduced us, even part of the conversation. But I just couldn't recall the name. As she approached, she called out my name, and waved hello. Of course, I froze for a brief second, still unable to recall her name. I said the proverbial long hello and immediately went into talking about our last meeting, offering this as some appeasement to forgetting her name. Of course, she noticed and asked. "Ruby, do you actually know my name?" " Oh, very funny, I replied, (hoping that she wouldn't insist that I say her name), don't be silly." We both laughed and I wondered if she knew that I was faking. The conversation was lively, punctuated with jokes and anecdotes. We promised to get together sometime soon. We parted and later that night, I remembered her name. Unbelievable. I thought to call or email her, just to say, see I remembered your name. But that was my ego speaking.
So now, I try to do word associations and be present in the moment when introduced to someone. I try to listen carefully, sometimes repeating the name or asking for the spelling. If the name's complicated or difficult to pronounce, then maybe I'll have an excuse the next time. Then I can use the "I almost had it right. Next time..." before proceeding to the real conversation.
I have a few friends who never forget a name and some who never forget a face. The latter can always get away with forgetting names, because they're usually the first to say hello.
Forgetting a name once or twice is excusable. But forgetting more than twice is sometimes seen as inattentive and some get offended.
So do we blame our memories and consume fish oils, memory enhancers or pay closer attention? Or does it really matter? What matters is in the heart, right? Hmm. Try forgetting a friend's name and see what happens. Test the friendship a bit. They know when you're buying time or faking anyway.
Bottom line: Be present in the moment and be in the present moment.
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Liz Haak (Monday, 21 June 2010 08:57)
Oh, yeah, forgetting names happens to me a lot. My brain works by associations that I'm barely conscious of at the first meeting. However, this has a way of landing me in even more trouble. For instance, I've been working on the Census lately and in an effort to remember a team member's name, I made the association of Kirk Douglas. Next time I saw him, I confidently greeted him, "Hello, Kirk!" He gave me a puzzled look and when he was sure I was addressing him, said, "My name is Doug." For another team member I had the correct first name but was totally wrong on the last name. One day at a team meeting he returned the favor. I was sitting across the table from him and he said, "I must call Liz about this case." I piped up, "Me, Liz? I'm here." But he didn't realize that "Liz" is the short form of my full name, "Elizabeth"-- on all the official Census papers, name tag, etc.
One good thing about the Census was that they trained us to always ask for the spelling of the first and last name when interviewing the people we were "enumerating" Of course, all the information is confidential so we're sworn not to reveal it until the 2010 Census becomes public information in 72 years. But just because they spelled their names and I wrote them down, those will be the names that are lodged in my brain until my very last breath--even though I may never see them again. Ah, but maybe, just maybe, I was "present" when I recorded their info. If so, maybe I can do it again without a form and a pencil in my hand. Thanks, Ruby, for being in the moment to write this.