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February 17, 2013


Karen in Ohio

I hear ya, Hank. My memory used to be amazing, even to me. I can still remember things and people and even phone numbers decades later. But I've been losing names right and left.

One acquaintance has a good solution, which works in most cases that don't involve family members or your best friends. She sticks her hand right out, and preemptively says something like, "Hello! I'm So-and-So. And your name is...?"

The very worst is when you go to introduce someone, say your husband or your neighbor of 20 years, and you go blank on the name. So frustrating!

Hank Phillippi Ryan

OH, my goodness, Karen, I SO agree.

I know, and I've (unsuccessfully) tried a version of that--I say, Hi,Im Hank...pause pause. Then the person says--Hank, I KNOW, we were just intrdouced five minutes ago.

Storyteller Mary

Names are SUCH a problem. I've coined the term "name dyslexia" and used to explain to students on the first day of class that it was not a sign that I didn't like them, that my mother did it all the time, and I KNEW she loved us. One wag, said, "so maybe it's an age thing?" (classmates gasped)
"No, a family thing, the two-year-old is already doing it."
I did love the few years when we required students to wear I.D.s, but they were expensive and the students hated them, so I reverted to calling my tall high school students "darlin'" and "sweetie" or checking the seating chart for a name -- and sometimes sending the out with the wrong name on a hall pass . . . ;-)

catriona mcpherson

Hi Hank, it's Catriona (large, "blonde", Scottish).

Your idea of introducing yourself is a good one: might shoogle out a return intro from the other person and makes it clear you don't think you're too famous to have to.

I've met two people in my life who thought they were beyond having to say their names (numpties) and on the other hand have met a couple of truly famous people who just introduced themselves like everyone else and endeared themselves greatly.

Jonathon's idea - no offence - is a real half-a-baby, boy special!

My tuppenceworth is: start calling everyone darling.

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Cx, I LOVE darling, and I wish I could say it with an accent, because then it sounds even better. ANY kind of an accent.

But isn't that the absolute indication that you have NO IDEA?

NAme dyslexia, MAry, I love it. Can we get some kind of a grant to study it?

catriona mcpherson

You need to get tricksy with it. Say darling and then when you've rememembered or been reminded say "Edna, darling" a couple of times, well spaced, and then back to darling. Also works with sweetie, dear one, and beloved. (Sorry - still coming down from Downton.)

Hank Phillippi Ryan

OH, yes, yes, the old "I knew it all along" trick. But seriously, (although I was serious before) when you stop trying to remember, that's when the name arrives in your brain.

Karen in Ohio

Oh, dear, having a Mitt Romney moment, being introduced three times in an hour? LOL

Like so many authors, I traveled the country for 15 years, doing tons of public speaking and manning a booth at consumer shows. In that time I must have "met" tens of thousands of people. What killed me was when they would come up to me and expect me to remember them because they'd sat in an audience of a talk I'd given! Omniscience has never been my strong suit.

Not to worry, Hank. Next time we meet I'll be sure and remind you of my name.

Did you know Nancy Martin does not recognize faces, even of people she knows well? I can't imagine how much harder that would be!

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Karen, I didn't know that! Really. Huh. I am thinking about that now..wow. That would be very difficult.

And thanks--we'll all do it for each other, right? xo

Vickie P

I can SO relate to this--whatever the reason! My friend gave me this idea to remember neighbors' names from our street. She lists them on the garage wall in the order they live on the street--since she most often sees them walking in the neighborhood! No good ideas for conventions tho...

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Good idea, Vickie P! Like SECRET nametags.
We all do what we can do...



I can so relate to this name issue. The fact is, the older we get the more people we have met. I've been in sales, interviewed a lot of people, raised two kids and learned the names of their friends and their friends' parents names. Attended a college for two years and went to a different one two years and graduated. The list goes on. (What I find weird is that almost everyone I see looks like someone else I've seen before--I noticed this while people-watching at an airport recently.)
My best advice is to stop worrying about this and realize your brain is overloaded with names. It's not a big deal or a failing that you don't remember names. I try to give an extra friendly smile and say to the person "I know you, but please refresh me on what your name is." This puts me at ease to listen to what they are saying and I think it makes me so more confident--at least I hope so! If I was thinking "Mary," and they say "I'm Mary," I will say, "I thought so!" Once, when I said "refresh my memory," the person said "I know you and I can't remember your name either."
I hope this brilliant tip wins me your award-winning "The Other Woman" book, in which case I will remember your name for life--or at least until we meet again at Midwest Writers Workshop in July. LOL

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Cathy, you have given me hope and ..perspective. Thank you! ANd see you in July...make sure we introduce each other , okay?

I'll announce the winner of THE OTHER WOMAN here tomorrow~so lovely to talk to you all today!

catriona mcpherson

Ooh and - thank you for the vocabulary gift of "diva problem"!

Storyteller Mary

I met up with one of my favorite storytellers at the big festival in Jonesborough, TN, an overwhelmingly huge event. I saw the panic in his face and quickly said, "It's alright, Bobby. I'm Mary Garrett from St. Louis." (as is he, and we've known each other for YEARS). He smiled and admitted to having fumbled the name, but then said, "I'll tell you what I do remember. You used to come to events with your mother, and the last time I saw you, your mom was in a wheelchair." . . . and she had said, "He won't remember me," but I had pushed the chair down to the front of the auditorium where they had a great visit.
With memories like that, who needs names?
(but if you do where a name tag, consider the advice our Prudential managers gave and put them on your right side, more visible when shaking hands . . . )

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Yes, Mary, that's SO interesting. I can often (Sometimes)remember EVERYTHING sbout the person..just not, instantly, the name. Our brains are funny.

ANd Catriona, yeah...it's a good perspective thing...xoo

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hey..I just typed the cvaptcha word incorrectly, I know I did, and it stll worked. What's up with that?

Storyteller Mary

I think captcha grades on the curve . . .

Hank Phillippi Ryan

And the winner of THE OTHER WOMAN is VickieP! VIckie, email me at h ryan at whdh dot com and I will send it right along!

love to all...

Dana Cameron

Hank, Facebook and Twitter have helped me...a little. Because I mostly remember things as images or print, if I can remember their photo, I stand a better chance. It's like little flashcards, a little training every day. It doesn't work as well if people have pics of their pets, though! But it's getting harder and harder to recall names... Oy.

Dana (glasses, mad hair, not as Scottish as Catriona)


Hi Hank, Scottish researchers are now calling this type of memory loss, Busy Lifestyle Syndrome (BLS). That sound a teensy bit like you? Just a little? xoxo


Karen, Tess Gerritsen also has prosopagnosia. She says that's why you won't see her at many writers' conferences.

Hank Phillippi Ryan

BLS! Love it! Thank you, Reine, and now I have a lovely excuse.

And I had no idea about Tess...huh. Really. Huh. NO idea.

ANd Dana, yeah, I so agree! Facebook is so helpful for that!

An now I am remembering the scene in Devil Wears Prada, where--oh, what's her name? Miranda, yay me----has Anne Hathaway whisper peoples names in her ear. I need that.

(Me: no glasses, mad hair unless I'm careful, not Scottish at all except at heart)


That dentate gyrus, that must be the place I was dropped on my head, repeatedly, as a child. :) The last few years, name recall has gotten worse and worse.

Mary (pretty sure)-glasses, hair gray or brown depending on available spray paint, definite Scots in the family because we all say 'didna' and 'couldna.'

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