Today’s post is about you.
In work or in school, you work on meeting your peers the first day or two. After that, the urge or the fact that you even care starts to fizzle and you just know the names of the people you interact with regularly and it would be rude to not know.
You’re walking down the hall carrying a very important sheaf of papers, heading somewhere very important (because you’re important, yes you are!), and you see a familiar face. You both smile in acknowledgement. You remember meeting him the first week, but not a name.
Ah well, you think, whatevs.
The next day, you see him again. Again with the smiles of familiarity. This time, you both say hi.
The next day, repeat.
Two weeks later, you’ve seen him enough to know he’s getting shaggy around the ears and needs a haircut and that his favorite tie is blue with little gray fleur de lis all over it.
Then you end up at the same table in the break room. He smiles.
You smile. “Hi.”
“Hi, Redgirl.” He says, “How’s that Widget Project going?”
“Great!” Crap! you think.
Because you don’t know his name, and it’s gone on long enough to be awkward. Worse is the fact that he obviously remembered yours, as well as pertinent details about you.
This happens to me more than it really should. I have examined myself and think that my lack of remembering comes from a lack of caring, like I mentioned earlier.
Now, don’t hate me, but the honest truth is that I meet a lot of people (it seems), and if I don’t think you’re going to be:
a) immediately useful to me
b) someone in power I have to watch out for
or someone that does something different or strange to make me recall who they are, I won’t bother trying to remember who you are.
It’s a sad fact that a client who chews me out over the phone may get more brain cell storage than the lab delivery man I see every night and stays to chat, genuinely seeming to like the lot of us night crew. Crazy dog lady? I’ll memorize your phone number and be a tragic few seconds late picking up the phone…sorry, ladies I work with. Lab samples man? Yes, that’s your name to me right now.
The annoying and awkward part crops up later, when you realize that not everybody goes around wearing nametags like they should.
When working in a new environment, you can’t go around calling everyone “New Girl.”
She’ll get confused when you’re not talking to her, but the other New Girl.
You find out that someone was more useful than you thought they’d be. Damn!, you think, Now it matters because they’ll start noticing if I avoid saying their name all the time. Also, I can’t single them out when I need something.
And one that spurs me in particular, the knowing of things.
More than knowing what goes on (either general knowledge or things of interest that are not general knowledge), I like to KNOW. When you work in a hospital without knowing names, it’s like looking at the Marauders’ Map from Harry Potter, with all the little footsteps going around but no little designations on them.
This may not be a problem for you. You may remember every single name you hear in conjunction to faces and favorite beverages and food order (like the game I play on lumosity.com to increase facial recognition).
But if you are in a position to need to care or want to know, I have helpful tips for those of you embroiled in this awkwardness.
When staving off awkwardness, be blunt!
Society has not progressed in a way to prepare people for this attack, so success is yours. People have been trained to be polite to a “t”.
Think to when you are standing in line and a grown adult cuts to the front. In a crowd, it’s rare for someone to call them out.
I can think of only a couple reasons why. There is shock that someone would actually do it. There is embarrassment on their behalf. “That poor person is so socially inept that they think doing that is ok…tsk.”
Or…they are a person who is willing to risk the payoff for a couple dirty looks and low chance at confrontation.
When you are blunt with the “name game,” it gets the awkwardness out of the way quickly so you can move on to the subject of intent and distract them.
“Hi! I’m afraid I’ve forgotten your name…?”
“Helen! That’s it! Where did you acquire that spectacular sunburn?”
The friend of a friend is your friend. You’ve already tried being blunt and have forgotten their name again, you scatterbrain you! You know if you try it again, it will make you look like you’re not remembering on purpose.
Enter that new guy you just met by the door whose name your guppy-like brain hasn’t had the five seconds required to forget.
You see the prey. Mr. What’s-his-name-blue-tie. You smile. “Hi!” you shriek in a girlish chortle, “I’d like you to meet John. He just started here!” You step back.
Little suspecting he is being used solely for information he can prize out of the subject, John steps forward, thrusting out his moist hand in anticipation of a networking opportunity. “John,” he says.
Subject steps up and attempts to shake the limp offering. “Jared. Welcome to the team.” He reclaims his dripping hand and wipes in surreptitiously on the thigh of his gray Dockers.
While making a note of Jared’s name and face, you also make a note to never shake hands with … with…what was his name?
The modern age has given us this next tip, though it carries with it the creepy feeling of being a stalker. (In a good way! A good way!) You pull up Facebook and obsessively go through friends of friends and hope that they put up their picture and not a picture of their dog, a flower, or a puddle shaped like their freshman year girlfriend.
Or you can ask me. I know almost everything at this point…