Everyone loves the sound of their name. In fact, studies show that hearing one's name spoken actually activates the brain, even when the name is spoken aloud in a noisy room. Calling someone by their name is one of the easiest ways to make someone feel acknowledged, special and valued and yet so many people begin a first meeting with “I apologize; I am so terrible at remembering names…”
One of the first questions you should be asking yourself is: “why is it so difficult to remember names?” When we first meet someone we are trying to put our best foot forward and we are more worried about how the other person perceives us than really focusing our full attention on them. We are taking in so much information visually, auditorily and emotionally.
Many memory experts say that the reason it is so difficult to remember names is that we’re not really focused on learning them in the first place. We are not actively listening. In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says the secret to remembering names is to first decide to care. “If you make a conscious decision that you are going to remember names because you care about the people you meet, you will immediately become much better at doing it.”
If you are the person introducing yourself or someone else put a pause between the first and last name. “Hi, my name is Debbie (pause) Darling. This pause can be brief, but you want to set the names apart so they do not run together. I had a lovely young woman in one of my training classes and she introduced herself to the class as Lisa Lee. All morning everyone was calling her Lisa. Just before breaking for lunch I was teaching the proper way to shake hands and make introductions. She offered to demonstrate with me and shook my hand and said “Good morning, my name is Leigh (pause) Sallee.” She said she now understood why everyone got her name wrong. So make sure you try to make it easy for the person to remember your name.
If you have an unusual name, give the person a way to remember it. I always say, “my name is Debbie (pause) Darling, like Sweetheart”. They always remember me. If you have a difficult name to pronounce, say it slowly and spell it for those listening. Give the people its origin. If you are the person listening to the name do not be afraid to ask the other person to spell it and give you the origin so it is easier for you to remember.
Once a person introduces themselves to you make sure you call them by the name they use. If they introduce themselves as Michael do not call them Mike and vice versa. Don’t give them a nickname of your choosing. Repeat their name in the conversation as often as you can but not ridiculously so.
If someone calls you by the wrong name correct them immediately in a kind way. I had an older gentleman who lived in my town who would always call me Darlene. I corrected him every time and for two years he called me Darlene. I don’t know if he really thought that was my name since my last name is Darling or if he thought it was cute to use a slang of my last name.
One day, after two years of correcting him I mentioned to friends that I was looking to buy a new car. He overheard this and stepped into the conversation and said “Darlene you should come in and see me. I have just the car for you and will give you a great deal on it.” I asked him if he would consider buying a car from someone who did not care enough about him to remember and call him by his real name. He said no he would not. I replied and neither will I. He called me Debbie from that day forward.
Lots of people suggest word associations or imagining the person as an animal or associating them with something ridiculous etc. If you have just met a Jeff think of him as Jeff the Chef with a pot on his head cooking in the kitchen. The more bizarre you can make it the better. This does not work for me but if it works for you, there are many articles you can find on this kind of thing. Here are the ways I use to remember names:
- Choose to Care--just the active choice of caring to remember names instead of saying you are so bad at remembering them will create a new program for you.
- Focus on Them—make remembering names a priority. Give them your full attention and listen actively to what they are saying. In her book “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results” Darlene Price says “fully face them by squaring your shoulders toward them. Look them in the eye, shake hands, smile with your eyes and listen intently.”
- Spell Their Name in Your Head—Spell their name out in your mind and see it in your mind’s eye. This helps to visually stimulate the memory.
- Repetition—Repeat the name as soon as you hear it and try to repeat it in the conversation at least three times and in your head at least ten times.
- Ask for a Business Card—at the end of the conversation ask for a business card and then jot down on the back after you have left them a few memorable things such as where you met, what talked about, anything in common. Jot down a note about the conversation.
- Write It Down—Carry a small notebook with you that you can make notes in after your conversation. Example: “Jeff— met him at the XYZ networking event on June 1st, 2015. Tall, thin with glasses. Plays golf and has three kids. Use apps like Nameorize or Namerick for iPhone/Android. Do not write anything down while you are still with them. But make a fast entry as soon as you are free. Look at these notes once a week to remember them.
- Use the Name when Saying Goodbye—this is a great way to solidify the name in your mind.
Relationships in any situation, business or personal are all about the connections. By taking the time to remember a person’s name and pronouncing it correctly you exponentially increase your chances for making a genuine connection and building a relationship on respect that will last for years.
Debbie Darling, ©2015 The Presentation Pros
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