Article Date: 10/1/2011

He Changed His Mind
lessons learned

He Changed His Mind

When remembering names, it's best to forget association, alcohol and pills.

Jack Runninger, O.D.

"What is your name?” asked the sergeant of the new recruit.

“John,” replied the soldier.

“Look,” barked the sergeant, “this isn't some mamby-pamby social club you've joined. In the army you will be called only by your last name, Smith, Jones, etc. Now that we've got that straight, once again, what is your name?”

“It's Darling, Sergeant. John Darling.”

After a short pause, the sergeant said:

“Okay, John, the next thing you need to know is . . .”

I'm sure the sergeant never forgot the recruit's name. But it's not always that easy to emember names. As we discussed last month, the most important sound to any person is his or her own name. And if you don't remember patients names, they're probably not going to view you with fondness.


This happens even with prominent folks. I have a good friend named Dan Hanks. A few years ago, a picture of him with the governor of Georgia was on the front page of the local paper. Even though he was an important personage, prominent in politics, and president-elect of the Georgia Medical Association, he was identified in the photo as Dr. Dan Hawkins, rather than Hanks.

“I must apologize to you,” I said in the note I couldn't resist sending him along with the pic. “I always thought you were the ugliest M.D. in town. But I can see from his photo, this guy Hawkins isn't any better looking than you are.”

Association method?

One of the methods of name recall is the association method, in which you try to remember the name through something about the person. However, often this technique can be more dangerous than helpful.

“I'll be able to remember this guy's name,” my friend Frank Culp said to himself as he was introduced to a newcomer to town, Frank Goodrich. “First name the same as mine, and last name a brand of tire.”

A couple of weeks later, he introduced Goodrich to a friend.

“I'd like for you to meet a new resident of Rome,” he said. “Frank Firestone.” (True story.)

Another example happened at a United Givers luncheon here in Rome, Ga. The emcee was introducing Johnny Beane, a recovered alcoholic who had since become a remarkable citizen and was doing marvelous rehabilitative work with other alcoholics

“Our next speaker,” said the emcee, “will be Jim Beam.”

You've changed

Which reminds me that alcohol does nothing to enhance the ability to recall names. I discovered this while attending my 50th reunion at DePauw University.

“You're Fred Anderson,” a classmate I had not seen in the ensuing years, and obviously under the influence, greeted me. “You sure have changed! As I remember, your hair was a lot lighter, and you were shorter and fatter.”

“I'm Jack Runninger,” I said.

“So, you changed your name too?” said he.

Memory pills?

I can sympathize with him. At a meeting I attended, a speaker told me that he had a foolproof method of remembering names, and that if I'd write to remind him, he'd be glad to send it to me.

I wish I could remember his name!


Optometric Management, Issue: October 2011