I’m writing about this because I want to figure it out. Do better. Make this less of a problem.
It’s about names. Names that refuse to roll off my tongue, or if they do, in error.
After a long hiatus, my neighborhood book club met, in person, last week. It was lovely. I invited my new-ish next-door neighbor and determined I would introduce her around. I focused on getting her name right, and I did. But when I introduced her to Darcy, I said, “Judy, this is Darlene.” When I introduced her to Elaine, I said, “Judy, this is Ellen.”
We do have a Darlene and an Ellen amongst our members, but neither was in attendance. It was embarrassing to me. I consider both Darcy and Elaine good friends and I wouldn’t want them to think I don’t care enough about them to have their names on instant recall.
This Is Not New
When I was a teacher, I once called a student by the wrong name on the last day of school. He was hurt. He said, “Really, Mrs. Dixon? It’s the last day of school and you’re still calling me by the wrong name?” I felt sad. I knew having over a hundred names to remember was no excuse. I had colleagues who made it a priority to memorize all their students’ names within a very short time. It was possible, but I always struggled.
Meeting someone new is a battle even though I love meeting new people. It’s exciting. And I’m sorely impressed by those who can remember names after an initial introduction. I suck at this. I’ll even ask them, “I’m sorry, what was your name again?” And still, I don’t truly take it in.
That Precious Pause
BF says it’s an anxiety thing and I just need to pause a minute. But I don’t think our culture allows for conversational pause. When I pause, people finish my sentences. Jump in and rescue me. Even my granddaughters have taken to finishing my sentences.
Once, I had read an article by one of my gurus suggesting that when someone invites you to do something, take a pause. Allow yourself the space to “feel” whether or not this is something you really want to do. I tried this and a friend said to me, “Are you okay?” She thought I might have suffered some physical calamity. And then I realized I needed to explain my pause, “Let me think on this and I’ll get back to you.” I further realized that’s exactly what people are doing when they say, “Let me check my calendar and I’ll get back to you.”
Glennon Melton said recently on her podcast that when someone introduces themselves to her, she automatically introduces herself back to them using their name. I have empathy for her.
Please understand, it’s not that I don’t care. People and their names are important to me. I understand how nice it is when people remember me and my name. And yet, I may need to be with a person–especially if it’s in a group–several times before their name rolls easily off my tongue, and maybe never if I try to introduce them to another person. Such a dilemma, this is, for a person who loves connecting people to other people.
I have no answer for this stage fright for name recall. No fix. I can only vow to do better. And maybe that process begins by writing about it here.