I just attended the most beautiful wedding over the weekend and I noticed how many times I would meet someone and within minutes forget his or her name. What’s happened as I’ve gotten older? I remember every name of every classmate in grade school and I clearly remember this NEVER being an issue as a child. This phenomenon of getting older and having a hard time remembering names is, in my opinion, not completely a function of age, however. Less focus, maybe, but definitely not age. My three year has the most incredible memory, to the point I have to be really, really careful what I say because he will absolutely hold me to it… three months later. But I’m sure it’s not because he’s a toddler. I’ve watched something about him and have concluded something fascinating. This kid can win over anyone he meets. Sure, many of our friends may be telling me this because I’m his mom, but I genuinely believe this to be true. What he does differently from a handful of other kids and definitely from most adults I’ve noticed is that he is continually interested, not interesting. And most importantly, he’s authentically interested. He wants to know about YOU (and especially your car keys) and has no desire to share or show off anything about himself.
Contrast this to meeting other adults – how loud is it in your head? Trying so hard to figure out what to say next, what to share with this person to ensure an extraordinary first impression. What happens? You’re immediately trying to be interesting and are therefore not authentically interested in them. While trying to be interesting, the main focus is on self and not the other. And ironically, you’re immediately uninteresting to the other person, whose trying to be interesting to you. You’ve lost them, they’ve lost you, and therefore… shoot, what did he just say his name was?
Honestly, how many times has that happened? You JUST meet someone and immediately you’re wondering what they just said. Grrr. You’re hoping to overhear someone else mention their name so that you don’t seem like a complete space cadet. And then if you’re really honest you’ll just come out, apologize, and ask again. I do this, a lot. I hate to admit it. I’ve got a lot to learn from my son. Not just because this tactic of being interested versus interesting will keep my focus sharp and my memory impeccable, but because it’s apparently the way to authentic relationships. My son and the world he creates for himself is a marvel to watch. What I’ve concluded is that it’s completely a win-win situation – be interested and not interesting and voila, your recall will be incredible, relationships genuinely authentic, and life deeply fulfilling.
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in the Sacramento, CA area committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.