I Need Name Tags at Weddings

It’s really bad folks, when you can’t remember people’s names at a wedding.  I can remember your face, I can remember the conversation we might have had, but if you asked me to tell you what your name was, I would look like a fool, if your name has not been etched into my memory.  Now that you know this, you have the ability to make me look like a fool with greater frequency.  Worse, I might not be able to get away with my secret anymore.  I had developed elaborate techniques to “get by” and with the advent of internet access, social media became a tool to quickly figure out what your name was, or that of your husband/child /nephew/father/mother/friend/whatever.

But part of my problem is that over six years of working in a “name tag” dependent career has resulted in the further deterioration of my ability to remember names as associated with faces.  I mean if you know everyone will have a name tag, why would you bother to bury the name in your mind? (…Unless there is a significant importance or urgent need to remember the persons name.)  The way I justify it is that- Its not that you’re not important, its just that in environment requiring heavy networking and socializing, remembering every possible persons name on a day to day basis is near impossible.  Not that I am popular, but I could meet on average 30 new people at a given event.  But now that I am out of the ubber-networking environment it seems that the bad habit I have picked up is harmful.  It was with great pleasure that I ran across this gem discussing how to remember names, while reading “Moonwalking with Einstein” by Joshua Foer.

Before I share the gem, here is short tangential note on Foer.  In Moonwalking, Foer takes he reader through his journey of exploring how human memory works and in particular how his journey to become the US Memory Champion began.  He introduces himself as a normal guy with average intelligence that is, for the most part, incapable of remembering things like a US Memory Champion would be able at the outset of his journey.  In fact, he goes through great lengths to explain to the reader how the science of memory works and how he submits himself to the science to, I presume, show his credibility as an average guy with average intelligence and normal memory skills.

Here is the excerpt on remembering people’s names:

“the trick is actually deceptively simple,” he said.  “it is always to associate the sound of a person’s name with something you can clearly imagine.  It’s all a bout creating a vivid image in your mind that anchors your visual memory of the person’s face to a visual memory connected to the person’s name.  When you need to reach back and remember the person’s name at some later date, the image you created will simply pop back into your mind…So, hmm, you said your name was Josh Foer, eh?”  He raised an eyebrow and gave his chin a melodramatic stroke.  “well, I’d imagine you joshing me where we first met, outside the competition hall, and I’d imagine myself breaking into four pieces in response.  Four/Foer, get it?  that little image is more entertaining- to me, at least- than your mere name, and should stick nicely in the mind.”

I think the trick is nifty but it has its flaws.  For instance meeting a person of the same name at the same event could prove to be difficult.  Or a persons name is just not so memorable.  But overall it can be advantageous to have some trick rather not have anything, right?

On the other hand, the excerpt informs me on how much work it actually requires to remember peoples names, which begs the question is it really worth it?  If all I need is a degree of imagination, a certain latitude of creativity and the mental ability to smile, talk and interact with people at a party, all the while using this device to remember people’s names for some future date and time you expectedly/unexpectedly meet might get tricky.  Yes.  I am sure that this will definitely help me remember people’s names, because if the brain is seen as a muscle, requiring it to flex over time will develop the neural pathways necessary to make this device just function on autopilot all the time.  But on the flip side, you all can never FORGET my name- all you gotta do is think about “A Fad drinking his vanilla milk SHAKE.” (Affad Shaikh)

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