Lee Pitts: It’s the Pitts 5-14-12
We all like to think we are important enough to have our names remembered. But for most of us that part of the brain responsible for recalling names is usually preoccupied. This became obvious when I attended a trade show wearing the name badge of a friend so I could get in free. Although I knew most people there well enough to share the same toothpick, half the people I met called me by the name on the badge instead of MY name.
When it comes to the name game I see a lot of UFO’s (unidentified friendly objects). That’s why I was surprised when someone made the comment, “I don’t know how you remember everybody’s name.” Which was funny because I had no idea who they were.
In recalling names I do have a few tricks I use to avoid being embarrassed or appearing aloof. Such as navigating my way to the rear of a rancher so I can read the name on the back of his belt. But this has become much less effective as fashion trends have changed and not as many people have their name stamped in leather on their backside. So lately upon greeting people I have found it useful to slap the UFO on the back and say something like, “Hi, good buddy,” or, “Good to see you old friend.” Usually they think I’m real friendly and do not suspect for a second that I have no idea who they are.
Some suggest that prior to going someplace where you’ll meet old friends you should make a list of people you are apt to meet. I tried this once only to forget where I put the list. I’ve also read that if you really want to remember someone’s name that you should loan them some money. It’s a good point; when’s the last time you forgot someone’s name who owed you some cash?
In leadership training in FFA they told us that upon first being introduced you should try to associate the person’s name with a feature that stands out. For example, when I met a Mr. Burger I made a mental note that his belly stood out like Wimpy, the old cartoon character of my youth who devoured hamburgers. Sure enough, I introduced him at an FFA banquet as “Mr. Hamburger.”
Another strategy I use when introduced to a stranger is to have them repeat their name several times while I mentally draw the name on their forehead. The theory is that the next time I meet them I’ll look at their forehead and see their name. Usually all I do is draw a blank or call them something like Mrs. Wrinkles.
One of the best tricks I’ve observed was used by an auctioneer. He sold a set of bred cows to a good customer and when the ring man asked for the buyer’s name the buyer said, “The auctioneer knows me.” Well, the auctioneer didn’t know him well enough to recall his name, so, as he turned to adjust the sound system behind him he whispered to the clerk, “What’s that guy’s name?” She told him and the auctioneer whirled around and said, “Sure, that’s my good friend John Jacobs.”
I have seen variations on this theme worked to perfection, such as, coming down with a quick case of laryngitis or a coughing attack. Instead of saying, “Do I know you?” a much better response was one employed years ago in Hollywood: “I didn’t bother to learn your name because I knew that with your beauty you’d soon become famous and change your name anyway.”
Remembering names is one reason I don’t do book signings. All these people that I met once 30 years ago, like my mother-in-law, come up to me to have their books personally autographed and I have no idea who they are. So I have to think fast to come up with excuses why I don’t remember their name. Such as, “I didn’t recognize you without your mustache.” Although, I don’t recommend this line for your mother-in-law, or any woman, for that matter. If I am at a complete loss I’ll say something like, “Your difficult name is on the tip of my tongue. Tell me again how you pronounce your unusual and very unique name?”
“Sam Smith,” they’ll answer. Or something like it.
Or I’ll say, “You, my friend, have a tricky name to spell. Refresh my memory how it’s spelled.”
And then they’ll spell out “B-O-B” or “S-U-E.”