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Here’s What You Can Do If You’ve Forgotten Someone’s Name

Here’s What You Can Do If You’ve Forgotten Someone’s Name

Don’t you hate it when you see a familiar face, but can’t remember their name no matter how hard you try? These awkward moments can be tricky to navigate (not to mention embarrassing), so it’s best to have a back-up plan in place. If you ever have the terrible realization that you’ve forgotten someone’s name, react in one of these five ways.

Own it.

If it makes you feel any better, most people are just as bad at remembering names as you are. I wouldn’t even be writing this article if that wasn’t the case! That said, you still don’t want to blunder through the situation like a rank amateur. Own it with confidence by saying something like, “Please forgive me, but I have to see a person about three times before I’m able to remember their name for good. Would you care to remind me?”

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Don’t panic.

If you’re not confident enough to be so forward about it, that’s okay, too. No matter how you choose to react, the important thing is to stay calm. Worrying about it will just make it harder for you to maintain eye contact and actively listen. A person probably won’t even notice if you don’t use their name during an exchange, but they will definitely notice if you’re so stressed about it that you pay attention to what they are saying.

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Helpful hints.

I have to confess that I forget things pretty quickly, so I like to give myself clues that might help me remember a person’s name as soon as I hear it. For example, if I went to a party and met a guy named Harry who mentioned owning a black stallion, I would silently tell myself, “Harry rides horses.” I would also make a mental note of any distinct characteristics about his appearance that jump out to me (it would be awfully convenient if Harry also wore hipster glasses).

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Positive spin.

The three tips that followed this one are meant to be used when you’ve forgotten someone’s name who you met very recently, or have only seen on a few occasions spread over a long period of time. I would NOT suggest using those approaches if you’ve forgotten someone’s name that you really shouldn’t have, i.e. you’ve been going to the same school or working at the same employer for many months now — in that case, you need to be more delicate, because they might get upset if you don’t put a positive spin on it. If they are an interesting person you would like to know better, you could use this opportunity to take your relationship to the next level by saying something like, “Hey, I can’t believe I don’t have your phone number yet! Here, I don’t trust myself to spell your name right, so I’m going to let you type it.” 

Introduce a friend.

This situation is much easier to diffuse if you happen to be with a friend who (what’s his or her name?!) hasn’t met. Without missing a beat, march right up and say something like, “Hi, nice to see you! I’d like you to meet my friend Harriet.” Of course, they will then proceed to go through the pleasantries like anyone would when meeting a new person, and you’ll have the opportunity to hear their name again without even having to bring up the fact that you forgot it.

How do you react if you’ve forgotten someone’s name? Share your tips (or fun stories) in the comments. If you’d like to spare your friends some awkward social encounters, make sure to click the share button!

Featured photo credit: Hello, my name is anonymous/Quinn Dombrowski via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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