We all think we're important. We can't help it.
I could start spouting tired old chestnuts from philosophy 101 - "perception is truth" and there is "no such thing as pure objectivity" - but the fact is humans are are just programmed to be self-absorbed, although admittedly some are more so than others. This is especially true in Western cultures where more empahsis is placed on the individual than the collective. Independence and self-reliance are synonymous with freedom and strength, and we all believe we are special little snowflakes that are unique, valuable and utterly unforgettable. That's why when someone forgets our name, especially when we remember theirs, it can be a bit of a blow. Most of us will play it down with a jaunty "Oh don't worry, I'm terrible with names too," but there's usually a little piece of us that's thinking fuck you very much.
"How dare Roger not remember me! How very dare he! Last week at the company braai I endured his 20min monologue on the virtues of sodium-free soy sauce, yet he's looking at me like I'm a block of flats!"
What the above impassioned and more-than-a-little narcissistic internal rant actually means is "Roger doesn't care." Well of course he doesn't, and why should it worry us that the Rogers of this world don't think as much of us as we do? The point is, most of us have disappointly fragile egos, as much as we're loathe to admit it.
Of course, the converse is also true in that we are rather impressed when we are remembered by someone we only met in passing many weeks prior. Damn right he should remember me, we seem to think, still it's admirable that he recognised my snowflakiness after such a brief encounter. He must be quite a fellow. I feel much more inclined to (a) buy something from him, (b) give him a job, (c) be friendly to him or (d) all of the above. I must introduce him to my attractive sister.
When we recognise the importance of someone's existence it resonates with them on so many levels. Sure, failing to recall someone's name is unlikely to render them a devastated wreck, but it's also unlikely that they will remember you for being anything other than a twat. This, I'm sure you'll agree, is less than ideal, especially when that person is a potential colleague, customer or afternoon delight. And you never know what the future might hold...
Here are some tips to help ensure that you're the charmer who leaves a party by saying goodnight to each person by name and not the doos who can't remember the host:
- ASSOCIATE - Pioneering life coach Dale Carnegie said that ""the secret of a good memory is ... the secret of forming diverse and multiple associations with every fact we care to retain." Think of things that sound like the person's name and link that object to the person in your mind. Imagine Steve with a torn sleeve or Donald with a beak, no pants and feathers coming out of his arse (hey, whatever works).
- CARE - The end of Mr Carnegie's above quote is important in that we are always more likely to remember something we care about. So when you meet someone tell yourself that this person is extremely important to you - even if you have to fake it.
- APPLY YOURSELF - This is related to the above point; so many of us go through the motions of the "how do you do" and when it's over are left wondering who we just met. Make sure you are present in the moment when greeting someone.
- REPEAT - When a person tells you their name, repeat it back to them. You can even follow it up with a "That's a lovely/unusual/exotic name" if you're worried about sounding idiotic, although they might think you're high if their name is Dave. In that case a simple "Hi Dave, nice to meet you" will do.
- SLOW IT DOWN - Pause after you hear someone's name and absorb it. Take a mental snapshot of the person's face and say their name three times in your mind. Asking the person to spell their name will also give you more time to remember it, although if it's Dave from earlier, he might tell you to go play in the traffic.