Remembering, it matters.
I must admit my ability to remember a name these days is not good.
Someone’s dog's name, easy peasy. Their face, no problemo. A random fact they mention, got it. Where they went to on holiday, I remember what they ate for breakfast.
Names, nothing. It's like my hearing switches off and my memory goes on holiday at the exact moment their name comes out of their mouth.
Even when I am trying extra hard to pick it up and do the three-time-repeat trick, 'Chris was it?', 'Great to meet you, Chris.', 'Have a great day Chris.'
Internally I'm, 'Yep, got it,' invisibly high-fiving myself as I walk away. And the next time I see them… my brain does a mini face palm. Name. Gone.
The thing is though, it’s not only me who forgets; they do too.
All of us are a forgetful bunch.
Except for that one person who remembers your name after meeting you once, months ago, and you immediately go a bit starry-eyed because, ‘They remembered my name, no one remembers names.’
Has that happened to you? You know, being remembered? It’s nice, right?
How do you remember someone’s name is the million dollar question and does it even matter anymore because all of us are so forgetful anyway?
First of all, I’m going to answer for all of us and say yes, it matters. Especially if you’re interested in real connections. It makes a difference. A big one.
I remember connecting with a woman on Twitter and sent her a tweet to say hi and had accidentally misspelled her name. I picked it up and sent another saying, sorry, (her name spelled correctly). And she replied immediately saying, 'Oh thank you and don't worry everyone gets it wrong.'
But I knew it made a difference that I had gone back and apologised and corrected myself.
Remembering someone's name (or writing it correctly) can help you stand out from the crowd. It shows you care enough to take the time to remember.
And it's nice to be remembered and not because a computer runs a special algorithm that slots in your first name that you wrote when you signed up to someone's mailing list.
It's the being remembered when you randomly run into someone you haven't seen in a while and they ask about your cat, or your course that you were doing, or how your mum is feeling and greet you with your name.
So, how to remember?
I think the more important question to ask first is, why have our memories become so bad?
There is a reason.
And coincidentally as I was asking myself this question, Peter Hellier from the Australian TV show The Project did a story about memory overload.
The story was about an increase in people visiting the doctor from worry that they were developing Alzheimer’s because they were increasingly forgetting things.
An expert on the show said the reason we’re so forgetful is that we now have 100 more things bombarding us at any moment. And we're trying to take them all in.
We’re watching TV and tweeting at the same time.
We’re talking on the phone and typing an email.
We’re walking down the street and billboards are shouting at us (silently but still loudly) to grab our attention from bus stops, trams (if you’re not in Melbourne or other tram filled cities that’s one less thing you need to worry about), buses, actual billboards on the side of the road, pamphlets, shop signs, even street art.
We clear out our inbox and five more emails arrive.
We’re tweeting, facebooking, pinteresting, blogging, accounting, talking, thinking and creating all at the same time, or at least trying to.
Our brains are overwhelmed with information and to cope they are letting go of things that we no longer need… like names.
Names aren’t considered important enough to hold on to.
Especially if they belong to someone you don't believe you'll see again soon or ever.
One of the women they interviewed on the show had even forgotten that she usually worked until 4.30 pm each day and had started working until 4.00 pm for a week and no one had noticed.
A doctor they interviewed said that forgetting things is a good thing. If we didn’t forget, we’d end up curled up in a tight ball in the corner rocking backwards and forwards mumbling incoherently to ourselves because we wouldn’t be able to function (maybe he didn’t say that exactly but it was close).
The point is we are not all coming down with Alzheimer’s and that forgetting things is not necessarily a bad thing.
I believe though that we can make a difference to what we remember, including names, by cutting back on what we consume and by being particular about what we consume.
I've come up with three ways we can do this. The first is being mindful.
Nothing new but definitely key for remembering. And the path to mindfulness is meditation, which helps you get very present in moments of time like now and now and now... oh, and now.
Meditation cuts the fluff from your life. It makes it easier to make decisions, quietens the inner chatter and helps you get on with it. It also improves your memory.
The second, and the biggest, is gatekeeping.
Be conscious of what you let in and out of your life. This includes habits, thoughts, and people.
They don't say you're the sum of the five people you are closest to for nothing. Choose wisely. Definitely remove activities and people that add negative stress to your life. And spend more time with people you want to spend time with.
It's your life after all.
Another big part of gatekeeping is around the media you consume.
Is it really necessary to fill your mind with the doom and gloom of the news? Remember that regardless of how well news is presented it is always about getting a reaction out of the audience. Media thrives on sensationalism.
Bestselling author Tim Ferriss avoids the news and stays informed by instead asking other people he trusts, 'What's news?' or by glancing at the front page of a newspaper. He's been doing this for years and has never found himself out of the loop or misinformed.
I avoid commercial news because it is plainly so bad. The cheesy lines, the cliches, the put on voices, the same ol' same ol', I don't know how they're still on air.
I watch The Project every now and then because it's a bit different, although even they can spin bad angles. Charlie Pickering, an Australian comedian and TV personality, left the show because he couldn't morally condone some of the tactics used.
“There were enough times making The Project where what I felt was the right way of going about things was compromised by commercial demands,” he says in an interview for news.com.au.
Media is all around us and it can be difficult to ignore. It's also still important to stay informed and know what is going on in the world. I still skim read the papers to know what's going on. Usually the headline and first paragraph gives me everything I need.
As with who you let into your life, be choosy about what media you let in and keep an open mind. Do not take it at face value. The online world and in particular social media can be a life drainer. Be very choosy here too.
Choose how often you check in online. If it's more than a few times a day start asking yourself why. The Internet has been an incredible resource for She Loves, yet I've had to put clear boundaries around it so it doesn't swallow up my very precious time (and sanity).
Remove all apps from your phone and if that freaks you out, again ask why. Definitely remove notifications from your phone.
Switch off from your laptop a few hours (at the very least) before bed. I'm still working on this one as I find I get a lot of work done in the evenings, however, powering down your mind is important for sleep and good quality sleep is essential for your mind, memory and your health. Health in my opinion is everything. If you don't feel well, it is very hard to feel free in life.
Choose who you let into your inbox. This is a big one too.
Say no more and cut back on too many commitments.
The third way to improve our memory is focus.
A bit like gatekeeping, focusing is all about being selective about what you do each day. It is the things we do each day that ultimately contribute to our lives overall. Being successful is all about small moves every day rather than being an overnight success.
Get focussed on what you want rather than wasting time on what you don't.
Know where you're heading. Have a vision for where you want your life to lead, as in look at where you are now and where you want to be in five years time. If five years seems too much, start with one year.
When I first starting planning ahead, a year was the most I could envision with very broad goals like pay off my credit cards or move to Melbourne or find a new job.
These worked for me at the time but in the long term I knew I wanted a bigger picture view of where I was heading and how I was going to make it happen. I trained myself over time to look bigger and then break it down into detail.
Being organised and having strategy around what you're doing frees up so much space in your mind so you can find even more freedom. It seems strange doesn't it? That having a schedule will give you more freedom but it does.
It gives you more time to do what you really want to do. It also gives you more peace of mind because you know what is coming up.
With those three things in place see if you start to find more room for the things that matter, like names.
After all, knowing someone's name is really about connecting with another person. It's showing them in a small but significant way that they matter enough that you remember their name.
It's these little gestures that can change the world. Little generosities and acts of meaning. They bring the world together.
By making a person feel that they matter, you're in essence making it known that you matter too. And you do, you know.
The change that you're seeking may start with the simple gesture of remembering someone's name.
Do you think remembering someone's name is important? Would love to know your take on things.
And if you enjoyed this article please share along. It could make a difference to someone's life.
Before you go...
Have you taken a look at the 5 Steps to Falling in Love with your Words? Head here to take a look. It's free.