I struggle to remember people’s names. Do you? We are not alone.
I often used to think that if someone had a head for names, they were an amazing at networking. However, I’ve since realised that (1) some people simply have a knack for remembering names or (2) some people had found a technique for remembering names (that worked for them!).
You will of course be forgiven for forgetting a name of someone you have only been briefly introduced to, not been properly introduced previously or not seen them in ages and never really knew them in the first place. However, there are only so many time (and circumstances) where you will be forgiven for forgetting a name. Once this moment has passed failing to remember someone’s name will not only be embarrassing, but also insulting–and it can seriously damage relationships in business.
This is why it is important to start with the intention of learning someone’s name when you first meet them
Make a committment…
Upon meeting someone, take the time and make the effort to learn, remember, and use their name. It makes a lasting and positive first impression on them and helps make that initial connection.
Make a positive commitment to yourself to get better at remembering names. Not only that every time you interact with someone new (and this can be both personally and professionally) commit yourself to learning their name, regardless of who they are, or their perceived importance.
Practice, Practice, Practice…
- Focus – give the person you are meeting / being introduced to your full focus and listen. Don’t just nod and smile – actively listen and if you don’t hear their name ask for clarification, rather than letting the moment pass (or if inappropriate at that stage, clarify later in the conversation) (see below).
- Don’t just focus on their name and the conversation, focus on what they look like, to help commit this to memory.
- Repeat their name aloud. After meeting a person, immediately repeat their name back to them. If you are unsure of their name or misheard, use this moment to clarify. If it is an unusual name or you are unsure about the pronunciation or spelling there is further potential to clarify this at this stage, engaging in a conversation about their name, will help you to remember it, as well as the repetition, it will also give you some factual information to attach to the name.
- Ask a question. If their name doesn’t give you an opportunity to ask a question. Ask you own question (you should do this anyway). By immediately asking the person a question, you once again get given an opportunity to have some factual information to attach to the name (and to the memory). Just don’t forget to focus on their answer to the question.
- Repeat their name silently. Once again repetition helps. Repeat the person’s name silently in your head over and over.
- Exaggerate their name silently. Similar to repetition, try to make the name memorable but exaggerating the name in your head silently.
- Make a vivid or memorable connection between their name and something familiar to you. Another technique is to also create a memorable image in your head to go with the name, alternatively use a word, phrase or alliteration to make it more memorable. This works slightly differently for everyone, but give it a go the idea is to trigger recall of the person’s name.
- Mentally make a link to someone else you know that has the same name.
- Introduce them to someone else using their name. The repetition of the name will help reinforce the practice of remembering their name, and successfully remembering their name, using it and making an introduction will help build your own confidence.
- Conclude your interaction with them by using their name. As your interaction draws to a close, use their name a final time. The classic example will be “It was great to meet you….[insert name here].
- or if you can’t remember – ask again at this early stage.
- Write down their name (or get their business card). As part of my post-networking routine I often make a note of people’s names and some facts about them as well as doing my follow-up.
- Repeat their name in future conversations. If the person comes up in conversation, use their name multiple times.
- When you meet them again use their name multiple times. This might be in conversation, by introducing them to someone else etc. Do this every time you meet them if you have to.
- Ask someone else that you know well and trust to help you with remembering their name. This might be by prompting you or by repeatedly repeating the name in front of you / in conversation or giving you a sneaky discreet reminder.
- Learn the names in advance (or get a copy of the attendee list). If you are attending an event, run through with someone else who is going, whose names you might forget etc. If you are meeting someone specific you have no excuse for forgetting, memorise the name in advance, write it down etc.
Please share your own methods in the comments.