Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Struggles To Remember New Names

DEAR HARRIETTE: Whenever I run into people I’ve met before and they approach me knowing my name, I always feel really bad when I forget theirs. What are some ways that I can either admit to forgetting somebody’s name in a less embarrassing way or have them tell me their names naturally within the conversation? -- Can't Remember

DEAR CAN’T REMEMBER: This is my Achilles’ heel! I am really bad at remembering names, which I admit only to acknowledge that it can be hard for anyone. I try not to claim anything negative about myself and instead actively choose to engage the positive, so because I know this is a weak area, I do a few things that may be helpful to you. Most important, I welcome people warmly, making eye contact and saying anything appropriate about how we know each other. For me, I don’t usually forget the association I have with a person. It’s generally just the name.

Many people have researched ways to support name recall. Among the common suggestions are to pay complete attention to a person when you meet; notice distinguishable characteristics and attempt to associate them with key words that may jog your memory; and repeat the person’s name while making eye contact.

When you are with other people, let them know that you need support in remembering names. Ask them to jump in and introduce themselves and ask the other person’s name when you are making introductions. When this happens, make sure you are paying close attention. Write down the person’s name and something that’s identifiable about them as soon as you can. If you get stumped, apologize and admit that you don’t remember names well. Ask the person to remind you of their name when there’s no other option.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I share a bathroom with my grandmother, and she tends to be in the bathroom when I really need to use it. Sometimes this results in my being late for work, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to find a solution due to her being irrational. How can I resolve this issue? -- Bathroom Politics

DEAR BATHROOM POLITICS: Your grandmother is trying to get your attention. What you may want to do is figure out ways in which you can spend a bit more time with her during the day or evening that is special for the two of you. I bet if she feels that you are making her a priority, she may lighten up on her control over the bathroom.

Specific to the bathroom, consider taking your showers at night so that you need less time in the bathroom in the morning. Get up an hour or more earlier than usual and quietly go into the bathroom. Do what you have to do and get out of there in a timely manner so that your grandmother doesn’t feel that you are taking up her time. Adopt a positive attitude rather than one of disdain or irritation. That you have your grandmother is a blessing, even if she can be annoying at times. Show her love and notice if she softens a bit.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)