I thought I was doing so well!! I was actually remembering people’s names, well most people’s names, during my Olympic training, or I should say more accurately, ‘rehearsals’.

Well, actually after about five or six people, my capacity to remember any more names ceased to exist. But still, to learn that many after meeting them for the first time was a huge achievement for me- high five!

So here’s a scenario about how rubbish I am at remembering names. As a first year university student, your aim it to make as many friends as possible to ease you into the social environment. Well, remembering someone’s name would be a big step towards that goal, wouldn’t you say? The problem, especially for me, is that there were so many names to remember.

[Cue music for the revelation of my cunning plan]

So my cunning plan, and believe me, this was by no means weird, was to ask for that person’s number. Then as I entered that person’s number in my phone, I would ask them how to spell their name. Simple. All I needed to do to remember their name was to see the name in its written form, then it would be etched into my brain, forever. Then, hey presto, in my next chance encounter with the person, I could say with confidence: “So your name is Ukweli, right?” Boom, mission accomplished. “Hey, Luc… Luc with a ‘c’ and not with a ‘ke’- heyyyyy, how youuuu doing?!” Boom, gold star for me.

It was a genius idea and it worked well for a while, until one day I asked this girl to spell her name for me, because, and I did emphasise this point, it was very difficult to spell. As I was entered her number into my really long contact list, she replied bluntly that her name was Emma. …Fail!!!!

There aren’t even any real spelling variations for that name! What’s worse, I don’t even know if that was her name, but Emma was the first really simple name I could think of to write for this story!!! In case you were wondering, it’s fair to say that we didn’t keep in contact after that fateful incident.

Even more embarrassing was when I was in a coffee shop with a friend, and then another friend (and I do use that term loosely) came in, who I had not seen in years. I knew I would have to introduce the two people, and I was racking my brain for her name: ‘Brain give me the name, dammit!’

                     

A name came to me, but I wasn’t sure if it was correct. I ended up just mumbling the name very quickly, hoping for the best. I was sort of saved when my friend asked my other friend herself, saying that she never heard it properly. I felt stupid though. I still do. To be fair, the friend, whose name I forgot, actually uses two different names as a first name, confusing my poor brain even further.

I hear you ask, how do I remember the names of ‘famous people’? My answer is that is that I don’t. I try to describe them based on how they look and what they do.

But what brought all of this to my attention is that I started a new job two weeks ago and I was introduced to everyone in the office, all at once. This is the biggest office I’ve worked in so far with all of its 20 people seated at their desks.

How in the world are people supposed to remember all these names at once? It was all just a blur, by the time another name was mentioned I had already forgotten the name, which was previously mentioned. Awkward.

I asked a couple of people for their names later on, and I quickly forgot them again. I didn’t want to keep asking, so I used impersonal greetings: “Heyyyyy… Hey you/dude/girl,” but making it sound more natural, of course.

I am of course in a professional working environment, now, and I can no longer just go up to someone I barely know and ask for their mobile number, that’s just weird.

Instead, my plan has been to draw a seating plan of the office, so I can write people’s names down. If I overhear someone’s name being mentioned I would quickly scribble down that name and the position of where they are seated in the office.

This is me being pragmatic, and taking the initiative to overcome a weakness. I really doubt I can use this example as an answer to an interview question about my weaknesses though. “I forget people’s names, so one day I drew up a seating plan of the office. Every time I heard someone’s name being mentioned, I tracked their movements and I wrote their names down. Now I know everyone’s names. Everyone. Single. One.” [Said in a freakishly high-pitched horror movie voice].

How do you remember people’s names? Can you give me any tips?

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