(This article also appeared in the Feb 2004 issue of the St. Louis Small Business Monthly.)
Sigmund Freud says ‘a person’s name is the single context of human memory most apt to be forgotten.’
Feelings of embarrassment and social ineptitude are conveyed through this forgetfulness, and unfortunately, the problem persists daily. The ability to remember names is an important skill that gives you an advantage in social and business settings. However, the way you associate and remember names is based on your learning style and personality type.
The following list of ten effective ways to remember names combines visual, aural and strategic techniques. Once you find the best fit for you, it will become easier to avoid muttering the most awkward and impersonal sentence in the English language: ‘Hey you!’
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
As soon as you hear their name, repeat it back to the person. ‘It’s good to finally meet you, Karen—I hear you’re the expert on mufflers.’
If you don’t do this, you will forget her name within ten seconds of meeting her. Also be sure to repeat the name aloud in the beginning, during and at the end of the conversation. This will allow you to widen various areas of your memory circuit.
‘That’s a great story Stephanie!’ ‘Wow Tony, you obviously know your hockey.’ If you speak the name, hear the name, and listen to yourself say the name, you will remember it.
The number one rule in interpersonal communication is to show a genuine interest in the other person. So, ask your new colleague to explain the personal significance of their name. Ask if they go by a nickname. Inquire about the culture from which their name was derived. The spelling question is also effective. Even if Dave or Bob is only spelled one way you can always ask if they prefer ‘Dave,’ ‘David,’ ‘Bobby’ or ‘Robert.’
In so doing, you show them you care about them as a person. You also transform their name from an arbitrary fact into a meaningful representation of them. Ultimately, you will flatter them and make them feel appreciated.
You probably remember faces better than you remember names. Great! This will only make it easier when you dramatize someone’s face and associate facial feature with their name. For example, if their nose or hair is particularly memorable, make a connection using alliteration with their name. Brian has bright red hair. Lucy has a long nose.
The trick is to make your associations and dramatizations memorable and interesting. Remember, that which is exaggerated and ridiculous is memorable.
Forget About You
‘Did I give him the ‘cold fish’ handshake?’ ‘Did I even look into her eyes?’ ‘Do you think she noticed the logo on my company briefcase?’ If you try too hard to make a good first impression, odds are you will have no idea to whom you make a good first impression to!
So don’t think about yourself! Forget about you! Concentrate on them. When you become too self-conscious and nervous during the moment of introduction, it will interfere with your memory.
Write Them Down
If you are a visual learner, write down the name of the person. This is a flawless method to remember. Most networking functions and meetings take place where tables, pens and paper are available.
Throughout the conversation, look down at the name in front of you, and then look at the person. Maria. Then look at the name again. Maria. Then look at the person again. Maria. You’ll never forget.
The additional benefit when you do this, unbeknownst to you, is that at least one other person in your group will see you write the name down. Talk about a good first impression!
Imagine you’ve already used Samantha’s name during the conversation. You seem to have it committed to memory. Then again, you don’t want to overuse her name aurally. Even if a person’s name is the sweetest sound they will ever hear, you don’t want to make it too obvious that you use the repetition trick.
Fortunately, there are countless opportunities during the conversation to quickly say the name to yourself while you look at their face: while they get a pen, while they take a drink, while they get something out of their desk, while they laugh at your hilarious joke.
It only takes a few seconds to look at someone and silently think to yourself, ‘Samantha. Samantha. Samantha.’ Don’t worry; you won’t miss anything if you choose to do this at the appropriate times.
Introduce Someone Else
‘Have you met my coworker Patty?’ you ask the nameless person. ‘I don’t believe I have,’ he says, ‘My name is Roger. It’s nice to meet you Patty.’ Roger. That’s his name! You thought it was Antonio! Thank God you introduced him to someone else or you would be floating up the eponymous creek.
Furthermore, if you introduce someone you just met to another person, it allows you to: take control of the conversation, show your willingness to encourage connections and expand someone else’s network of colleagues.
Listen and Look for Name Freebies
More often than not, you won’t be the only person who knows the name of your new colleague. This means that other people will say their name, and you will be reminded. No charge. All you have to do is pay attention.
Also remember to keep your eyes open for subtle, visual reminders such as business cards, receipts, nametags, jewelry, table tents and personal papers. Without getting too nosey, it will be easy to identify these ‘name freebies’ that paint you out of your memory corners.
These ten effective techniques to remember names will be helpful to cross the chasm between you and a potential colleague or associate. When you identify and amplify someone’s name, you won’t suffer a loss of face. Ultimately, your interactions and conversations will become more personal and comfortable.
Practice. Practice. Practice. That’s the hard part. But over time you will learn how these different techniques for name memory will work best for you.
Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. That’s the easy part. However, while practice enhances your name memory over time, it only takes a few seconds to decide to change your attitude. Don’t yourself that you can’t remember names. In fact, from this moment on, you are no longer bad with names. Combine this new attitude with your recently acquired skills, and you’ll never have to say ‘Hey you!’ again.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
The last time someone forgot your name, how did that make you feel?