Why Can’t People Remember my Name?
I have two first names and two last names. My parents thought Barrett was a cool name, and my mother told me that she liked the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. So, Barrett is born, and my story begins.
I Like my Name
There are not that many Barrett’s out there. Not as a first name. Not that I’ve found. In fact, I think I can count the number on one hand. I’ve always thought that was great. Not having to share my name with countless others. It complements my identity as an only child. (But that’s another story for another day.)
Hi, my name is Barrett. How do spell that? That’s Barrett with two t’s.
Please Don’t Call me Barry
That’s usually as far as it goes with my first name. People get it. It’s easy to pronounce. Barrett sticks the landing pretty much every time as a functional name. Thank you, Mom and Dad.
Sometimes people ask me if I have a nickname… like Barry. No.
I hate ‘Barry.’ That’s not my name. Please don’t call me that.
My name is Barrett. And with surname?
And when they hear my both names, that’s when many folks run into trouble.
Lester is not my First Name
That’s because Lester is a more common first name. And Barrett is a more common last name.
I would say that across my entire life to date, 50-55% of people I meet initially call me Lester, either verbally or via email. And after I correct them, another 20-30% make the mistake again or even repeatedly.
Just so you know, I’m not really that upset about all of this. Yes, it’s a little inconvenient. But I actually find it quite interesting.
Paying Attention to Complexity
Names in general can be a terribly complex category. Even the simplest of names can have any number of different spellings. You’ve really got to pay attention. (I am absolutely not immune to occasionally misspelling a name.)
When it comes to names, everyone should be on their toes. You can’t make any assumptions.
My Jedi Mind Trick
To be fair, yes, I know Lester sounds like a better first name. And that presumption seems to be locked into a number of brains I’ve encountered.
It’s locked in really tight, and I realized many years ago that I needed a solution that would effectively rewrite that flawed code in people’s brains. I had to rewire that Lester-first neuron pathway into a stronger Barrett synapse connection.
How did I do that? Trial and error.
I finally landed on a simple mental trick that works with the majority of my test subjects…
The correct order of my name is alphabetical.
- The letter ‘B’ comes before the letter ‘L.’
- It’s Barrett Lester.
- That’s how you remember.
After that, people get it right.
Use your Webcam
Anyone can make an innocent mistake when it comes to remembering a name. I think that’s even more likely if you’ve never met the person face to face or had voice contact.
Your connection may be as wafer thin as a cc on an email chain.
In today’s virtual work environments, there are often so many people we’re connected to who are almost total strangers.
That’s a problem. And it’s one that we all bear a responsibility to fix.
If you’re connected to someone as part of a personal or work community, then why not say hello and talk for a few minutes? If that person is half way across the world, then use your webcam.
A visual and audio connection can do wonders.
And that will help you to remember someone’s name.
What’s in a Name?
One last point on my name: There are a very few people who know me well who occasionally call me Lester with intention. It’s usually during a funny moment. And I like funny. Then that’s okay to call me by my last name. The intention to get it wrong is what makes it feel entirely right.
So let’s review.
Barrett Lester is my name. Please don’t call me Lester. Unless I know that you know that my name is Barrett. Then, you can call me Lester.
Am I clear?
I expect this entire blog post isn’t going to serve as my best Barrett Lester branding exercise, but if you use my Jedi mind trick that the letter ‘B’ comes first, you should be okay.