You've got problems, I've got advice. This advice isn't sugar-coated -- in fact, it's sugar-free, and may even be a little bitter. Welcome to Tough Love.
Photo by http://perzonseo.com. Illustration by Jim Cooke.
This week we have a forgetful politician, someone in search of friends, and an older man who's unsure about his new relationship.
Keep in mind, I'm not a therapist or any other kind of professional -- just a guy who's willing to tell it like it is. I simply want to give you the tools you need to enrich your damn lives. If for whatever reason you don't like my advice, feel free to file a formal complaint here. Now then, let's get on with it.
So, This Person Can't Remember Anyone's Name
I simply cannot remember people's names for the first, like, eight times that I meet them. I know that I should take a moment, repeat their name, and try to think of something about them that stands out so that I make that neural connection, but when I'm in social situations like that, my adrenaline spikes and I don't even hear the name!
It's driving me crazy and I'm starting to get more involved in local politics, so this is actually causing major problems. My strategy now is to follow-up by finding that person on Facebook and adding them to my network so that I see their name more often but this seems goofy. What should I do?
The reason people forget names is complicated. The names you hear when you're meeting someone goes right into your brain's short-term memory, but it needs to move into long-term memory for you to recall it later on. If you don't make a concerted effort to move it from short-term to long-term quickly, you're screwed.
You're on the right track repeating their name, making visual connections, and doing the creepy Facebook thing, but if that's not enough, it could be a much bigger issue. Either it's social pressure getting to you as you suggest, or, more likely, you don't hear the names because you're not actively listening for them. When you meet someone, you subconsciously make the interaction more about you than about them. It could be because you're nervous and too worried about how people will perceive you, or it could be that you're too caught up in your own routine of how you introduce yourself, or it could be because you don't think meeting that person will matter in the long run. After all, we meet tons of people in our life that we never meet again, right? But you've met some of these people EIGHT TIMES...
So, it's not really about what tricks will work for you at this point -- those are just triage -- it's about rethinking the way you meet people. It's not a memory game where the goal is to match the names with the faces. These are real people, with real life experiences and stories to tell. Find a way to be more interested in everybody you meet. Only then, Francine (see, don't you feel more connected to me when I remember your name?), will you be able to make those connections and get those names moved from short-term to long-term storage. You probably don't know these people's names because you don't make an effort to know them.
This Loner Is Tired of Hanging Out With Just Their Dog
I had a cancer scare a while back and it made me realise that I don't have friends. Like, people who would drive me to chemo, or help me plan my own funeral and promise me to look after my dog if I die and shit. I'm in my mid-30s, I freelance from home, I'm a loner and I like dogs. How do I friend?
Hey Lonely Lassie:
I've never understood why people ask this question as if there are official methods for acquiring friends -- like they just haven't been given the secret details. There's not a friend store, and there are no step-by-step instructions. Think back to when you were a kid. School and whatnot made things a little easier, right? But what would always lead to friendships? LIKING THE SAME STUFF.
Yes, real friendship should go deeper than that, but in the beginning, friendship is almost exclusively about having similar interests and points of view. So, you need to go find people that meet those very basic requirements. Now I know, I know, you want me to tell you WHERE you're supposed to go. Fine. I'll break this down for you, Lassie.
You like dogs. That's perfect! Take your dogs somewhere. Lots of other people like dogs too. Hit up dog parks, hang around pet stores, take your dogs walking in places where other people walk their dogs. When I take my girlfriend's dog out walking I can't get other dog walkers to leave me the hell alone. But here's the kicker! You have to make the first move. You WILL NOT meet people just going about your business, hoping someone sees you the one time your out of the house each week, thinking "Gee whiz, they seem interesting! Hi!" Talk to people, make an effort. Those weird hairy toddlers everyone's pulling around are barking, pooping ice breakers.
You want friends? Try to make some. The operative word here is MAKE, Lassie. As in takes time and effort. People are always afraid to put themselves out there because they're afraid they will look like a loser for not having any friends, but that doesn't make any sense! Trying to meet people doesn't make you a loser. Not trying and complaining about it does.
This Widower Isn't Sure How to Approach His New Relationship
I am 74. My wife passed away last May. We had been married almost 50 years. Recently, I met a very nice lady and we have been seeing each other regularly for some months. It is pretty intense.
At my age, does it make any sense to even think about another long term relationship? If so, does it make more sense to marry, or just be together?
Sweatin' It to the Oldies
You met a nice lady. Great! You're seeing each other regularly. Excellent! And it's intense. Fantastic! Sounds like you have a good thing going there. I don't know you very well, Sweatin', but life is short and you're running out of time. Why should you spend one minute of it being unhappy? If this woman makes you happy, and you want to keep it going, then I don't see what should stop you. You're older, fine, but that doesn't mean you should hold back how you feel. If that means jumping into a long term relationship, then go for it man.
Does marriage make sense for you guys? I don't know, does marriage really make sense to begin with? Again, Sweatin', just do what feels right. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. There's no actual rule that says you have to be married to love each other and be together. It's very common these days for couples to be together and devoted without being married. Then again, marriage does give you an excuse to go on an awesome honeymoon vacation...
Because I just don't have the time or patience for all of you...
Should I get an electric mower to replace my gas powered one? If so which do you recommend?
Well John, unless you get one that's cordless -- which is more expensive -- it will be kind of like vacuuming your yard. Lame. And how are you supposed to wake the whole neighbourhood up on Saturday morning with a far-quieter electric engine? That said, electric mowers are much better now than when they were introduced. If your gas powered one is getting old and you can find a good deal, go for it. It's good for the planet or penguins or one of those things I think. Go cordless, though! People seem to like the Greenworks models.
I need to find somewhere new to live and work. Aside from teaching 6 months in Thailand last year, I've been in Boston for forever.
There are too many places; decide for me, please?
Scottsdale, Arizona. So hot right now.
Should I buy a hot tub? I want to be hot and submerged in water every day but I don't fit in my bathtub.
Hot tubs are awesome. All of my instincts are telling me to say "Yes, spend the money you fool, you could die at any second." But! I have a few questions for you… First, do you have anyone in your life you can use it with? If not, get a bigger tub instead. Roman-style. Second, do you have a place to put it? Hot tubs are quite large. I know this because I've sat in over three of them. Third, are you willing to take care of it? They actually require a lot of upkeep, which is actually really annoying and so not relaxing. And lastly, do you live near me so I can also use your hot tub whenever I please? If not, probably not worth it, you know?
Dividing by Zero says:
I'm currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering but can't bring myself to study much/care about it. Maths is the main problem.
You don't like maths, huh? If you're just getting started with your degree, you have several years of maths to look forward to, including linear algebra, physics, differential equations, multiple levels of calculus, and vector calculus. So, what's the real issue? Do you just not like maths? Or are you merely struggling with it?
If you just don't like maths but you're capable of doing it, you can suck it up and power through. In the end, you won't be doing a ton of complicated equations at work anyway. If you're just struggling with the coursework, find a tutor. Maybe you'll care about maths a bit more when you understand it. If it's both, you should probably rethink your major. Maths is essential to engineering. You need to know it. And to know it, you kind of need to care about it.
That's it for this week, but I still have plenty of blunt, honest advice bottled up inside. Tell me, what's troubling you? Is work getting you down? Are you having problems with a friend or a coworker? Is your love life going through a rough patch? Do you just feel lost in life, like you have no direction? Tell me, and maybe I can help. I probably won't make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but sometimes what you need is some tough love. Ask away in the comments below, or email me at the address you see at the bottom of the page (please include "ADVICE" in the subject line). 'Til next time, figure things out for yourself.