Oh, those names and faces! 17/06/2010

Oh, it happened  again and I think  I will continue making a faux pass again and again  and get into the Guiness   Book of  Records one day! I  envy people who have a gigantic memory for faces and names of  their  acquaintances, even though they would have met them only once in their life time.  But  here I am who has never been so fortunate   to remember  names  of those I meet  even  often ,leave alone rarely!  However, my memory for faces is not too bad but here again there is a hitch. The person might appear familiar but I   wouldn’t  remember his name or  when and where I would have met him or her and  such situations  occur too often for my comfort.

The other  day when I was at a  shopping mall ,a gentleman greeted me with a smile  saying, ‘How are you Mrs.Rao?’ Though  I didn’t recognize him, I thought  courtesy demanded that I  should atleast pretend to have  met  him earlier  and  respond to his gesture which I did. But honestly I was at a loss to place him and  probably sensing from my expression  he  said, “I don’t think  you have recognized me”.

I fumbled between a yes and a no and thought it wise to ask him whether he was still working in the same company, thinking his answer would give me a clue.

“Yes”, was his monosyllabic answer (I could notice he was thoroughly enjoying my plight). “Please  convey my regards to your husband” he said  before he left. My experience after a cultural show we  happened to attend  recently was slightly different. When the show was over I found a  gentleman and my husband talking  shop and when he  turned to me and said   “hello Mrs.Rao”, I promptly  responded  “nice meeting  you again Mr. S—..”.,and  enquired  about his wife .

It took some time  for me to understand the reason for his  strange  expression!     

n.meera raghavendra rao   


6 thoughts on “Oh, those names and faces! 17/06/2010

  1. Prof. V. Raghavan

    I read somewhere that for remembering names, you should associate the name with a familiar object. For example, I could not remember the name Kotagiri, till I started associating it with hill (giri). So, when you meet a new person next time, associate the person with pumpkin or string beans or something like that!

    1. meera rao

      If you associate the person with pumpkin or string beans you might commit a faux pas by unconsciously referring to him as one while talking about him among your friends which I think is
      quite dangerous Prof.V.R.

  2. Prof.V.N.K.Kumar

    I can sympathise with your predicament since I had the same problem and am a co-perpetrator of such ‘Faux pas’.

    I liked Prof. VR’s suggestions.

    Mnemonics is an useful art to cultivate in such cases. Most of us have trouble remembering names. Partly because they are said only once and it is an embarrassment to ask the person a couple of minutes later to repeat their name. There is a good reason for this problem.

    We are simply inundated with information all day long and our minds automatically exclude almost all of it. We pay attention only to those things which are most central to our personal needs at the time. Usually in meeting a new person that concern is not embarrassing one’s self and so we pay particular attention to our own personal behavior and that interferes with our relationship to remembering other people’s names.

    Using Mnemonics to remember People’s Names and Faces : 1. Make sure you get the name right ( Ask the person to spell it out) 2. Make the name meaningful. 3. Focus on a distinctive feature of the person’s appearance : his nose, mouth, hair, ears, eyes, moustache, beard, smile, voice, mannerisms or her face, saree, jewellery, make-up 4. Associate the name with the distinctive feature. 5. Repeat this association a couple of times in the privacy of your mind, to register & store the name into your memory.

    Our names are the most important thing in our lives and when other people recognise us, we feel elated, don’t we ? We can give the same happiness to others, if only we put in some effort in remembering their names.

    Having said all that, I liked this skit of yours.

  3. Prof. V. Raghavan

    Ah, I now remember! Mnemonics is what I was referring to. Prof. Kumar has a scholarly way of analyzing every problem.

    In my 28 years of teaching a core course at IIT (we had a rule that the senior professors teach junior most classes), I must have taught some 5000 students. My son, who was also an IIT graduate, tells me that there are about a dozen students of mine who are full professors in USA. I don’t know whether I will recognize all of them. Once in California, some one from behind called out: How are you, Professor Raghavan? I cut a sorry figure, not being able to place him.

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