If you’re anything like me you tend to be pretty horrible with names. Part of the reason I’m so bad with names is because of the sheer number of people I meet on any given day. Say I teach a full day in a high school in which the average class size is 25. With 3 periods, I meet 75 students. In addition, I will meet at least 1 or 2 secretaries in the office when I sign in, as well as anywhere from 1-20+ additional teachers, admin and school staff.
Add in that I’m often in at least 2-3 different schools a week, if not a different one each day – sometimes even 2 in a single day. Then add that I have worked in my hometown in various camps for 8 years, as well as having been a soccer referee and volunteer in various capacities with schools. Then add in meeting people in the other 4 part time jobs I’ve had since September that have finished. Then add in meeting people through friends at various social functions. Then add in years of playing various sports at a competitive level. Add in all the time I’ve spent in school – with 13 years for K-12, preschool before that even, followed by 4 years of undergrad (1 year of that overseas) and 1 year to get my teaching degree.
What I’m getting at here is I’ve met a ton of people and I continue to meet hundreds of people every week, by sheer virtue of my jobs. I run into people I’ve met before and often cannot even place where I’ve seen them – especially if I’m seeing them in a totally different context from where I met them. To top it off – I come across as very recognizable to most people and apparently am quite memorable in terms of personality and appearance. That means more people remember me than I remember them. It’s incredibly awkward. If I’m lucky in these situations, I can at least register that I recognize the person’s face. Often though – I can’t even do that. Faces start to blend after awhile in my memory.
To further complicate matters is my inability to remember certain names. I’m better at names than I usually let on – simply because I will often get mental blocks on specific names. Usually it’s a name that is just not particularly common – if I have difficulty saying it, I’ll often have difficulty remembering it. I also have a tendency to re-name people in my head if I don’t think their name suits them. This tends to happen more if I meet someone when I’ve been drinking though.
So what are some good tricks for remembering names? I’m quite fond of repeating a name to myself right after being introduced to someone. If I can attribute something specific to that person I will also be more likely to remember their name. When I was on my exchange, I would be able to remember other exchange students based on their country of origin. And sometimes I just try to bluff it out so that the other person doesn’t catch on that I have absolutely no idea who they are.