Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
But how do you actually remember people’s names so that you can use them?
It’s, well, hard.
We would all like to consistently give others that “sweetest and most important sound.” It makes people feel good and it, in turn, gives people a favorable impression of you. This is important for building personal connections, especially in any type of business networking environment.
Because it’s not really who you know that matters — it’s whose name you know. And, more importantly, who knows yours.
I struggle remembering people’s names. A lot.
I often find myself thinking about what I am going to say next while someone is introducing themselves — fear of looking like a fool, I guess.
I don’t realize I’m doing this in the moment. I hear the person say his or her name, but I’m not really listening. And as quickly as the end of the conversation … I’ve forgotten the name. What chance do I have to remember it hours, or days, or weeks later?
And when you have to re-introduce yourself the next time you see someone, it’s almost like starting off back at square one. That’s no way to build a network.
Hence why I’ve been making it more of a priority to learn people’s names. And something has surprised me, a lot …
It’s really not that hard.
You just have to want to do it, and you have to be willing to alter your behaviors to get better at it.
Below are five steps that I’ve personally taken recently to get better at remembering people’s names. If you share this objective, then I bet one or all of them can help you out.
Oh, and let me kill the suspense: I’m not going to be uncovering any secrets here.
These are all time-tested methods for remembering names that I’ve heard in countless other places. (One notable recent place is Chris Brogan’s latest book, The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.) I’ve just finally stopped being stubborn and am actually doing them — and they’re working.
1. Listen, you nincompoop.
When someone is about to reveal their name, stop and listen.
Don’t think about what you’re going to say next, stop worrying if they notice your hair is hilariously wind-blown, and forget about whether you left the front door unlocked at home.
For that split second, nothing in the entire universe should matter more than the name of the person you’re talking to. You can’t just hear it. You have to listen. It has to register.
2. Say the name out loud (quickly)
As soon as the person states their name, restate it.
Them: “Hi, my name is Geronimo.”
You: “Geronimo, it’s really a pleasure to meet you.”
Maybe you can even find another excuse to say it.
You, turning to your date: “Geronimo, this is my date Josephine. Geronimo works at my company in a different department.”
Whatever your method, find a way or two to say the name out loud, and look at the person when you do, because you want to …
3. Make some kind of mental connection
You’ve got to get this person, and their name, into your mental memory palace.
Is there anything unique about the person? Maybe, maybe not. Not everyone has a memorable face or wears something that sticks in your head.
Still, attach the name to something.
Jane — older lady and has the white, fluffy maltese
Bill — wore the bright red tie, drinks Mountain Dew
Attaching something to a name will help you remember it down the line. The more ways you can connect the name to other thoughts, ideas, and memories in your head, the easier it will be to recall later.
4. Record the name
This one has been helping me a ton.
As soon as I walk away from meeting someone, I jot down their name and whatever connection I made using the Notes app of my iPhone. I just keep a running tally.
No, this isn’t always possible — especially at a busy event where you are meeting new people left and right. But even in those situations, you can use this tip in these two ways:
- After the event, jot down as many names and quick descriptions as you remember.
- If you meet someone whose name you really want to remember, find the first opportunity after you’re done talking with them to jot down their name. (This is a great time to slip away to the restroom or bar.)
And the final tip, drumroll please …
5. Use the name every time you see the person!
After you meet someone — and you’ve listened to their name, said it aloud, made a connection, and recorded it — address them by name the next time you see them.
That’s the whole goal, right? We want to give people that sweet and important sound.
You’ve done the work to remember, so just come right out with it.
Francine! Hey, how are you?
Jedediah, it’s great to see you again!
Boom. Right there, you’ve reestablished the connection, they feel good about you because you remembered their name, and the interaction begins on a connected, confident note.
(Doing this is an absolute must for remembering the names of acquaintances who you don’t see often.)
Work this five-step process for each person that you meet, and you’ll start remembering names better immediately.
It’s a bit of a mental hassle at first, but that’s to be expected. You’ve been forgetting names because of bad habits, so you have to replace the bad habits with good ones — which takes time.
But it’s well worth it.
You make another human being feel important every time you remember their name. And making others feel important is one of the most generous impacts we can have on a daily basis.
What other tips and tricks have you learned over the years that help you remember peoples’ names?
Image credit: “He Sells Success – Dale Carnegie” from the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York