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And Learn To Remember People’s Names While You’re At It

by Mary Anne Radmacher - from Simply An Inspired Life ©2008 Conari Press

Have you grown up with the impression that the person you are by a certain age is pretty much who you are stuck being? Even Popeye sung out from the
cartoons, "I y'am what I'yam ... and that's all I y'am." Contrary to that, and even though it has long been said it cannot be done, the hope of "teaching an old dog new tricks" is popping up all over the place. Self help authors are encouraging you to change your life simply by changing your mind.

The cultural anthropologist, Mary Catherine Bateson said, "We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn."

Throughout decades I've cultivated the qualities I've needed to change my life. The fact that I don't know something, or that I'm not naturally skilled at something - rarely stops me from exploring that thing and trying it out.

A. A. Milne's Tigger is a wonderful model for cultivating the qualities that can change your life. In situations unknown to the enthusiastic Tigger, he declares
THAT very unknown thing is "what Tiggers do best!" Tigger proceeds to give that very thing his undivided attention. Frequently with good results.


We can learn accidentally. We can learn purposely. Learning comes in many different ways. There's a world of information and media at our fingertips. This is about being willing to learn. Willingness comes from deep within.

Are there are people in your life you admire? How many times over the years have you whispered, "Oh, she's so ________(fill in the blank) and I wish I could be more like her? The real question is, "Are you WILLING to be more like her?" If your answer is YES - then let me share some ways you can.

Consider the qualities that you would like to cultivate in your life. Inadvertently you may identify them, in a negative way, every day. Can you hear yourself saying, "oh, I'm terrible at remembering names." You are actually reinforcing the opposite of a quality you would like to cultivate.

After you identify the quality you want to cultivate, look for people who model that quality. You can discover a model in your immediate circle, in a biography, in a current popular figure or celebrity.

I was seventeen years old. Just beginning to expand my social network outside my school experience. I regularly assessed that I was awful at remembering people's names. I really was. My minister, Rev. Don Baker, served as senior minister to a congregation of thousands. I observed Pastor Baker in countless settings speaking to people - and he always addressed them by name.
The second time he ever saw me he addressed me by name - I was shocked and touched that among thousands of people he cared enough about me to remember who I was. His calling me by name gave me a real sense that he thought I was important.

I wanted to demonstrate to people I met that I cared about them in that same way. I set up an appointment to meet with Pastor Baker. I asked him two things, "How is it you remember so many peoples names? And is it something you can teach me?"

I'll tell you what he told me. I started practicing it immediately. I started to cultivate a quality that changed my life

I learned there are six steps to remember someone's name.

It is important to connect, however briefly, with that person. Focus only on them even if it is only for thirty seconds.

Say their name as many times as you naturally can. Repetition is the second key. For example, "Oh, Mary Anne. It is so nice to meet you. Is that
Mary Anne without an 'e' or ... Oh, Mary AnnE, WITH an E ... just like ANNE of Green Gables when she declares MY NAME IS ANNE ... ANNE WITH AN "E".
THAT'S the third key: associating their name with something already familiar to you..

As you are meeting them, touch them in some way. Shake hands with one or two hands, touch their shoulder or elbow. Whatever is appropriate. Reaching out to them is the fourth key.

Use association and repetition if a someone else has just introduced you to them. Thank the person for introducing them to you with something like this, "Jennifer, I want to thank you for introducing me to Mary Anne. And, Mary Anne, I know that if you are a friend of Jennifer's ... we'll always have something interesting to talk about ... because Jennifer is a fascinating individual."

He said the fifth key was that it's important to practice. Practice all the time with everyone. He suggested if I found the process challenging I could ask for help from the very people whose names I'm trying to remember.

Ask for help ... the sixth key. I could say, "I am working on remembering your name ... because I think you're a person worth remembering. Will you help me the next time we see each other by reminding me of your name?

Those were his keys to remembering someone's name. I've added a seventh. The Tigger Factor. Act as if you are already good at it. Stop asserting what you cannot do but rather assert that you ARE good at remembering people's names. IN FACT REMEMBERING NAMES IS WHAT TIGGERS DO BEST. And if you can't work your way up to the Tigger Factor then simply acknowledge," I am practicing at being excellent at remembering people's names."

It took a few years, but by the time I was in my early twenties I had cultivated the
caring quality of remembering people's names. I remembered the names of folks I encountered briefly and wasn't sure I would ever see again. I knew I'd mastered the quality when people began saying to me, "I wish I was more like YOU. I'm no good at remembering names. Not like YOU. You can remember everyone's names. It just comes naturally to you." Ha! Uh-yeh - Naturally after years of practice! Turns out I became a model for others of the very quality that I did not first possess. Not only was I able to demonstrate that caring
quality that I wanted to take on - but this quality did change my life. People often told me in business that they were favorably impressed when I remembered them after meeting them briefly, once. It made them feel as if they really mattered to me. And! they did and do.

This story of learning to remember names demonstrates, different than Popeye's claim, it's possible to be different tomorrow than we are today.

Think of a quality you would like to cultivate. Perspective. Forgiveness. Generosity. If you can't think of a model for this desired quality in your circle, you could look to a public figure who demonstrates this quality. Beyond that you can use the library, book store or search the internet. A quick internet search of "developing generosity" yields hundreds of sites with a variety of suggestions. There are numbers of ways to learn to cultivate a new quality, provided you are willing. Remember that Bateson said, "We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn."


Consider your need/quality (identify). Look it up in the dictionary (define it). Understand how others see it. (Check out a biography of an individual who articulates or demonstrates this particular quality, learn what someone you admire said about it) Define it for yourself (what does it mean to me?). Express your understanding of it in context (say it in a sentence) or express it poetically (say it beautifully). Think of a time when this quality has been used in a life experience (tell a story about it). Ask questions about it (make inquiry). Imagine what you would look like and how you would act if you were demonstrating that skill/quality ... and then create ways to step boldly into the circumstance with the what you have defined and discovered. Practice them. Often in this process ... I discover elements of that particular quality within me ... things I didn't even previously recognize were there.

When you begin applying the Tigger Factor in your own life you can tell all the "Popeye's" in your experience that you may be just what you are today ... but tomorrow you'll be cultivating a quality that will change your life. And you can also say, "Because that's what Tiggers do best!"

Reference points for cultivating a quality:
Look up the definition.
Find out what others have to say about it.
Craft a phrase that summarizes the quality.
Tell a story about it.
Write about an experience you've had with it.
Discuss it with a good friend.
Create practical ideas/ways to boldly cultivate this quality in your life.
Create a "tool kit" using points of view and prompts that make sense to you. Use them regularly.

See Tigger and other A. A. Milne Winnie The Pooh Quotes.

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Jonathan Lockwood Huie
"The Philosopher of Happiness" - is the author of 100 Secrets for Living a Life You Love, co-author of Simply An Inspired Life, speaker, personal coach, and creator of the popular Daily Inspiration - Daily Quote free email and Regaining Your Happiness in Seven Weeks e-training program.

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