When you first meet someone and they introduce themselves, do you remember their name?
If you are one of those special people who can do that, I am standing up and giving you a standing ovation. I’m super-impressed. I wish I could do that, but I cannot.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to be able to do it, but I can no longer. Call it getting old, or call it a lack of paying attention, or maybe I’m just psyching myself out, over-thinking it, and as a result, I’m not going to remember their name even if it was the same as my own.
Back in the good old days, when I was working at the Canada Revenue Agency, I worked in an office that had around 1100 people in it, and one day, while walking into work, someone said “Hi Warren!” to me.
I had no idea who they were, but I said, “Hey…” and walked on.
I didn’t like that.
They knew me, but I didn’t know who they were.
I thought about it quite a bit, and realized that when I was walking towards the office I had my head down so I wouldn’t have to acknowledge anyone. I didn’t like that either.
That day, I decided to make a change.
I decided that I was going to walk with my head up, and if I saw a stranger on the sidewalk, I would smile and say hello, and if I saw a colleague, I would greet them by their name.
I order to do this, I would have to master the trick of repeating someone’s name when I meet them, and to ensure that I didn’t forget their name, and to show them the same respect and courtesy that was being shown to me, I was going to also learn something about them so that I could show them they matter.
From that day onward, I greeted everyone by name, and I would ask about something or someone close to them, and using those techniques, I was on a first name basis with almost each and every person in our building.
It felt great! I loved it because I got to meet and engage with so many incredible people and the hardest part of leaving the CRA was leaving the people.
That skill, however, has disappeared.
But a face… I will never forget a face!
Take last night, for example. I was walking through my eldest son’s school during their curriculum night, and in the crowd of parents, I spotted a face that made me stop and recall my past.
Way, way back in high school, there was a girl that I liked. She was new to the school, and I believe new to the country, and I recall wanting to help her get settled in the school by introducing her to our classmates, and the school.
Fast forward, and it’s the end of the year, and our prom is coming up. I didn’t want to go, but my buddy Wayne changed my mind, and I really wanted to ask this girl to the prom, but was very afraid of being rejected.
So I waiting until 3 days before prom, and I asked her for her number.
I called her that night and asked her to prom.
All I remember was her saying to me that it was 3 days before the prom and she didn’t have a dress, and it was very last minute, and it was at that moment that I realized that waiting until the last minute was a supremely stupid thing to do.
I felt like such an idiot.
I saw her the next day at school and apologized for being an idiot.
Then school ended, university began and all was forgotten.
Until last night, when I saw her through a crowd, at my son’s high school.
So, I walked up to her and her husband, and I said to her, “I know you! We went to high school together!”
Her husband said to me, “you haven’t seen her since high school and you recognize her?”
“Yup. I never forget a face!”
I was 30-years ago. She looked the exact same. Her and her husband have 4 children, and they are all doing well, and I told her about our 3-kids and I introduced her to my wife who was with me.
I did the adult thing. I needed to, especially after how I left it.
If you asked me what her married name was, I couldn’t tell you. But a face… I never forget a face.