Name, Schname

There is a theory that extremely outgoing people tend to forget other people’s names, while more quiet and shy types keep better track of details like names, even of people they have hardly interacted with.

Take, for example, my kids. Six-year-old Luthien, whose first question in the morning is, “Mom, where are we going today? Who are we going to see?” sometimes forgets the names of the neighbor girls who she plays with almost every day. Three-year-old Silas, on the other hand, not problematically shy but not outgoing like his sister, will talk about someone by name who he met once nearly half his lifetime ago.

They proved the theory again recently, when they both attended the first day of Vacation Bible School at a church where they don’t know anyone. At dinnertime I asked them, “what are your teachers’ names?”

“Miss Cara!” Silas said at once.

“How about yours, Lu?”

“Um, I don’t remember.”

I laughed but reassured her that it’s okay. Growing up a shy girl, I knew everybody’s name, and could remember names long past what seemed an acceptable time period. I felt like a stalker, having met someone once, forever destined to know their name even after they would naturally have forgotten mine (if they ever even knew it!). Sometimes I even pretended to have forgotten someone’s name, just to keep from creeping people out.

Maybe getting older is the biggest factor at work now, but as I’ve practiced overcoming my shyness and made more of a point to connect with people, I have more trouble remembering names too! Or maybe it’s a result of moving to Minnesota when I was ten, and I have now reached overload trying to process all the ways to spell and pronounce variations of the name “Kristen” and “Kari”, along with the plethora of Andersons and Andersens and Johnsons and Jensens and Jensons, Petersens and Petersons.

Ah well. You’re all lovely, every one. Now, remind me of your names again?


  1. I’m awful at remembering names, and I guess most people would say I’m outgoing. But I think that’s just my way of dealing with social awkwardness—deep down, I’d rather be more quiet. You and I can meet in the middle. šŸ™‚

  2. Very interesting – i have another friend who everyone would peg as “extroverted” but she would probably explain it similarly – her “way of dealing with social awkwardness.” She describes herself as “an introvert trapped in an extrovert’s body.”

  3. Thanks for confessing that you sometimes act like you can’t remember someone’s name when you really do remember it. I’ve done that, too, and thought I was weird. It can creep people out if you call them by name after 37 years and they don’t know who YOU are. We found another characteristic that we share! Both of us remember names for a long time.

  4. Yeah but you’re blowing my theory because you are definitely not an introvert! You’re one of those people who walks in the room and puts everyone at ease, which I love about you! Oh well, this is good science – testing the hypothesis, overturning the theory šŸ™‚

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