By Chelle Wyatt
Chelle, this is my friend (Blank)… (Blank) meet Chelle.
Conversation continues after introductions so I don’t stop to ask for a repeat. I’m trying to keep up with words and names don’t seem as important right away. Then again, names are important. When I see them again I’m embarrassed when they remember my name and I don’t know theirs. I can lipread some names because they are common but other names are different. Other times I miss most of the letters in their name because it’s out of my sound range. This is typical for a lot of hard of hearing people.
Ken helps me sometimes by finger spelling the names before or after meeting someone. Last summer I made it a point to understand the names of several new camp mates by telling them I was about deaf. (I didn’t want them thinking I was snob when I didn’t answer them also.) They all faced me and we repeated names until I got them right. That worked but I haven’t done it since.
I put the question to Facebook friends and they came up with a lot of good answers.
- Have them write the name down. Carry a notebook and pen or get them to type it out on your phone. My friend Susan said she needs it written down or she gets frustrated with the repeats also. Another friend Michele agreed with this. She said the more they repeated their name the more panicked she became, now tells people, “This isn’t working, let’s try something else.” Several of us agreed it’s easier to see names written. Maybe we should always wear name tags?
- Ask them to spell it out. This can work but sometimes I get stuck on letters so for me this isn’t a sure thing either.
- Drawing the letters in the air or on a desk.
- Michele says she might put the ball in their court and ask them to suggest something to help her understand their name. What a creative suggestion! Sometimes a rhyme helps. Chelle Belly as kids called me in grade school though I was stick thin. Or sometimes I tell people Chelle, it’s short for Michelle.
- Eleanor said “Ask for a business card.” Wow. That’s a great suggestion. I know I have one I can hand out to people so others must have them too. Rosie says people in other cultures have ‘visiting cards’ and hand them out to people as they call on them.
- Cheri says if there’s a list of attendees for an event, she’ll ask to look at it before hand.
- Another great suggestion came from Jan. She takes a picture of the people she meets and puts them in her phone right away.
- Finger spelling came up a few times. Ken has a hard time learning sign language but he can handle the alphabet and that has helped a great deal. A lot of people have learned the manual alphabet at some point so maybe we can ask.
Another common factor came up through all the replies. A lot of us fake or bluff when it comes to names. Henry was upfront about this. He says he can never remember names. Amy agreed. She says she does the vague “Have you met….” and hopes the other person fills in the blank. Henry also says it helps to remember the face, then we can get away with all sort of “shenanigans.” He also uses Mrs. Miss or Madam as needed. I called bluffing and he agreed. “We are great poker players, aren’t we?”
As I thanked everyone for the comments on Facebook, I brought up how hard it is for me to recognize people. It feels like another disability as I cannot remember faces either. I have to see them several times and/or make some kind of mental connection before I can remember who they are. Henry brought up a an article written by Oliver Sacks, M.D. who had issues remembering faces too. Just in case you have these issues too, read Face-Blind. After reading that article, I was glad it’s only faces I have a hard time with. Knock on wood, I have an excellent sense of direction and can remember places I’ve been.
I love a group effort, it turns into team work. Sharing their ideas is what it’s all about. I’ll try working on new habits myself made by the suggestions of all my friends. Thank you. I feel like I know some of the best people on earth due to hearing loss.