I am in the midst of my first Level I Anusara Teacher Training with Christina Sell. It is a 30-hour journey spread over 4 days and chalked full of great teaching, great inspiration and great lessons for life. During our discussion yesterday, we talked about the importance of learning people’s names, using their names when you see them, and particularly as this relates to a teacher and his or her students. There was some discussion on mnemonic devices for accomplishing the task, but most of the discussion centered on the importance of simply making the effort to do it.
My name is Pamela Faye McFarland Walsh & This I Believe
Raised by a salesman and now married to one, I have been aware of this fact and have valiantly attempted to practice this skill for most of my life. No doubt, the challenge of the task can be daunting, but definitely worth the effort.
As a married couple, Brian and I have adopted a simple formula for dealing with occasional lapses in memory. When we run into someone who knows one of us but not the other, we are very good about immediately introducing the person. But if, for example, we DON’T introduce them right away, then that’s our married silent cue: “Hey, I forgot this person’s name, so help me out.” The spousal unit then chimes in with a quick, “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Pamela’s husband, ‘Brian’ and you are…?” At that point, the individual will hopefully say their name, while I stammer a few seconds behind with something like, “Oh, I’m sorry, Bri, this is my friend Joan from school.” Or something to that effect.
Now I say “hopefully” because we’ve actually experienced situations when the response was an uninformed, “Oh yes, we’ve met before.” And that’s it. No help. No prompt. Literally. Then hope quickly fades to the conversation at hand searching for some clue to our connection, coupled with furtive glances in the direction of a checkbook or credit card looking for a name. (By the way, I am a big fan of those “initial” purses that were popular awhile back!)
Addressing a Problem
I work at the elementary school in the neighborhood where I live, so it is not uncommon that I run across people who may be familiar with me, but to whom I’ve never been introduced. (This usually happens at the corner HEB when people are out of their “usual” context.) So this presents an interesting challenge because I’m never sure when I’m searching for someone’s name if it’s one I should know — that is, we’ve actually been introduced — or someone I’ve never formally met.
“Sean” the Light on Me
There was this wonderful Dad who volunteered regularly in the computer lab at school a few years ago. Sean was a friendly man who was willing to help out wherever he was needed, always taking the time to stop and visit. He was quick with a smile and a friendly “Hey Pamela, what’s up?” each time we met. Sean used my name, and I always made it a point to use his. It was great. Except his name turned out to be “Doug” which he finally broke down and told me, two years into “Sean”. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” I asked in despair. “Well I didn’t want to embarrass you.” Now every time I see him, I bumble through the line-up: “Hi there Shah … Du .. Sh ..Doug … DAMN!”
Another trusty method of the unsure is to revert to the generic use of some kind of pet name or nickname when memory fails; you know, one of those familiar slang or colloquial expressions? This technique is widely accepted in the south where endearments such as “Sweetheart” and “Buddy” pepper daily conversations. My cousin, a middle school principal in Kentucky, employs this approach quite effectively. He told me once: “All the girls are Darlin’ and all the guys are Bud.” Okay, so certainly not as effective as learning everyone’s names but possibly better than the alternative.
Consider my Dad. My parents raised four daughters and, as such, bore witness to a small parade of boyfriends throughout the years. After the dreaded event of once calling my sister’s new boyfriend by the old boyfriend’s name, Dad unapologetically adopted the use of “Slick” for all future boyfriends for all of us, with an occasional “Ace” thrown in for variety. It worked, but I will note that Thanksgiving CAN get a bit confusing. When Daddy says, Slick, four grown men turn their heads.
The Ace in my Life: The man calls ’em “Slick”
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“Words have meaning and names have power.” ~ Author Unknown
Whatever your strategy — and please feel free to post your tips — it is worth a concerted effort. As I mulled this topic over, I was reminded of something I’d read a few years back that eloquently speaks to this issue.
During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. “Absolutely,” the professor said. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy. ~ Joann C. Jones
Names ~ personal or pet ~ this form of acknowledgment means something of great value to most people. Take the time to learn the names of the people who cross your path ~ your teaching path, your yogic path, your life path!
And may YOUR name never escape me, Sweetheart!
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