September 10, 2014

Who Are You?

Ever have this problem?

You're standing at the counter of your favorite c-store (or any kind of small retail outlet for that matter) pulling out your wallet (or purse) to pay for your schtuff, when someone at the next register says, "Hi G.B.!" You look up, give them a puzzled look and either ignore them or acknowledge them with the kind of response that speaks volumes about the fact that you have no clue on who they are.

Or, say you're at work and a colleague that you barely know calls you by your first name and asks "how's things?" You can't simply give them the brush off, because quite frankly you have no freakin' idea on who it is that's talking to you, but you know damn well if you have a snappy comeback it will come back to bite you in the ass times ten. So you give them a rather neutral answer and hope like hell they leave you alone.

I have this problem all the time at my job, both at the main office and at the facility that I visit two to three times a month: people who know me and I have not a clue (much like our El Presidente) on who I'm talking to.

I'm very horrible at matching names to faces, faces to voices or even faces to e-mails. And if you factor in that I've been working in the same building for eight long years, then you can pretty much figure out that my social skills are basically scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Which if you think about it, is sad for a person with my memory skills.

I can't tell you how many times I've been put on the spot because of my inability to put two and two together at work. Or rather, my inability to interact with anyone other than my immediate co-workers on my side of the floor, a few co-workers on the first floor and a few members of security. At my other place it's just as bad. Out of the 350+ people I do payroll for at the facility, not counting the HR staff, I recognize just a shade under 24 people, or about one-half of one percent, and even then it took me about year to get comfortable with those people (all supervisors I might add). It's a little worse for the two regional offices I handle: out of 200+, I recognize two.

The real world is even worse.

I've had numerous people come up to me to say "hi" and I have no idea who there are (some recognize me from the private sector jobs I'd worked at and others remember me from high school). I'll politely ask who they might be, and they'll either tell me or go into that stupid game of "you have to guess who I am", and if I don't guess, they either get upset and won't tell me or just won't tell me.

So my friends, do you suffer from what I like call Brain Cramps from time to time? How do you handle it? Fake it the best way you know how?  Or simply say to the individual muscling in on your turf, "I'm sorry, but do I know you?"

(c) 2014 by G.B. Miller. All Rights Reserved.


  1. I work in an office with just over 4000 people. There are people whom I've worked with daily for 15 years and still do not know their names. And then there are the people like you describe who know who I am and I swear I have never seen them before. There are other people whom I've never met that come sit with me at the lunch table to talk about their breast cancer scare. Everyone seems to know I'm a survivor. I just smile and say "hi, how ya doin?" like they were my best friend. It is so weird.

  2. If someone called me by name and I didn't know them, I would definitely not ignore them. I would simply say that they need to forgive me, my memory is bad and I can't think where I know them from. And I would ask them to remind me of their name. This happens to me all the time - that's just what I do. My memory really is bad.

  3. I struggle with names as well. I've learned to be better, but I'm always running into someone from my church who knows my name but I draw a blank. In my defense, I go to a really big church...

  4. Lisa: My office building probably has roughly over 750 people and a good 15 to 20% know who I is. Not a clue on who some of them are. I look at this way, life goes on and if I do a brief acknowledgement, it makes them happy and they continue on their merry way.

    Lynn: I sometimes will ask their name, but more often than not, I'll carry on a long conversation in the faint hope that something they'll say will trigger a name recall.

    Alex: I had it bad at my wedding anniversary party because everyone knew me and I knew only a small sliver of people. I had to perpetually ask "Who are you?" to everyone.

  5. My solution is just to give them a big smile and chit chat in a general way like I'm delighted to see them. I don't let on that I don't know who they are or I've forgotten their name. Just fake it for a couple of minutes and then say, "oops sorry -- must run, I'm late!"

  6. Debra: I've done that quite a bit as well. Had entire conversations in an elevator/hallway without a clue as to who I was talking to.

  7. I am not good at matching faces with names. I am forever saying "Nice to meet you" to people I'm not seeing for the first time. Oops. I just own up to having a terrible memory for faces and make a joke about it. No one has ever given me a hard time about it.

  8. Yep it happens to me all the time and I use Debra's technique of chatting along as if I do know who they are until they say something that gives me a clue and then I connect the face with something. :D

  9. S.R.: I find myself doing that a lot these days. Good memory for minutia, bad memory connecting names with faces.

    Joe: Now that sounds like a good idea. Have to keep that in mind for the future.


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