No. 1208



Someone once said that “our memory is what holds the past and present together and gives continuity and dignity to human life. It is the companion, the tutor, the poet, the library with which we travel.” To be sure, the capacity to remember in vivid detail and recall facts, data, events and circumstances of the past is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us.
There is one area of our memory, however, that causes real problems for many people, and this is the perceived mental condition that they are unable to remember names. In regards to this, one comment I have heard more than any others over the years is “I’m terrible with names” or something to this effect. If this is an area of concern for you and you would like to do something about it, I will do my best to try to help you.
While this may or may not apply to you, we see many individuals in our society who are motivated to remember names because of business or economic reasons. On a personal level, how successful would a salesperson, a teacher, a minister, a banker or a public speaker be if they could never remember your name? It would not take long before you begin to feel they really do not care about you as a human being, which is exactly the point.
We must care about other people and respect them as one of God’s special creations if we are to be able to remember and recall their name, even if we have not seen them in months and run into them 1,000 miles from home. In other words, their name is important because they are important as a person. In reality, the only people we are going to help very much are those we really care about.
Apart from this “caring” factor, the biggest obstacle to remembering names is that about 95 percent of our waking hours are spent thinking about ourselves, our goals and our own personal problems. When we are introduced to another person and they give us their name, we hear what they say but our mind is thinking about something else and we simply never “get it.” When trying to recall it later, we say, “I’ve forgotten their name,” which is not really the case at all. It is impossible to “forget” something that we never “got” in the first place. In other words, we must get it before we can forget it.
Here is the key. The next time you are introduced to someone, try to slow your mind down and really focus on their name and get it firmly lodged in your mind. If you did not get it the first time, don’t be embarrassed to look this person straight in the eye and ask them to repeat as often as necessary until you really get it. While this may seem like a failure on your part, the other person will view it as a sincere compliment because you care enough to want to know their name.
Please understand that some people can remember best by hearing it, while others can remember best by writing a name down on paper. In many cases, it may not be possible to write it down, but by repeating it several times in your mind and using it in your conversation, you will be able to remember it and you can always write it down later. There are many techniques that space does not permit me to give you, but one that has really helped me is association. Get the new name lodged firmly in your mind and then associate it with some close friend or famous person or someone you know real well. As in most things, the key to success is practice, practice and more practice.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)