That one guy from the meeting who had a beard…

I have a confession to make. If I’ve only met you once or twice, I’m never ever going to remember your name. If I only see you once a month, I’m not going to remember your name. If we pass in the hallway every day and I recognize you by sight but we don’t have any substantive interaction, I’m never going to remember your name.

Some people have a knack for matching names and faces – even for people they see once and then maybe never again. Honest to God, I can sit in a meeting with you. Have an entire discussion and use your name the whole time, but five minutes later I’ll end up referring to you as “that one guy from the meeting who had a beard.” I know that for a fact because it’s exactly the phrase that came out of my mouth this morning in reference to a meeting I was in yesterday.

So, I’m not good with names. I make up for it with wit, charm, and by never talking myself into a position where I’d need to use a person’s name. Studying your own handout while asking “What do you think,” is a good way to avoid the awkwardness, in case you’re interested. Just avoid eye contact so it’s never entirely clear who you’re addressing and most of the time you’ll be good to go. And sign in sheets. Sign in sheets are your friend. They’re like having a cheat sheet only it’s perfectly legitimate.

All I’m saying to the people who I’ve met already and for those I’ll inevitably be forced to meet in the future, is don’t take it personally when I can’t call you by name in a meeting, after a meeting, or really at any time. Frankly I can’t call anyone by name. Sometimes I draw a perfect blank on people I’ve worked with for almost half a decade, so it’s nothing personal. It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m sure there’s some kind of mental gymnastics I could do to power up that part of my memory that is supposed to store and recall names, but doing that would require far more effort than I’m really willing to invest in it. I’m happy enough continuing to use second and third-person pronouns to meet all my professional needs.

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