If you’re like me, one of the most embarrassing things you encounter day-to-day is the inability to remember the names of those you meet. I can count the number of people who I have met who have mastered this skill on my fingers and toes, and I don’t even have to take off my shoes. But Dale Carnegie tells us that, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest sound in the world.” So, how do we improve this essential skill?
When you meet the person…
- Be interested. If you aren’t paying attention when they give it, you won’t remember it later. Anticipate it, listen for it, focus on it!
- Repeat it. Right after they say it. For example, if someone introduces himself as “Kevin,” confirm what you heard with, “Was that ‘Kevin?'” or just, “Kevin?” Almost no one is offended if you verify what you heard, and it helps your mind to focus on the name even more. You can also repeat it in your mind four or five times quickly to make it stick.
- Picture the name written across their forehead. Franklin Roosevelt passed this trick on to us, and he was highly respected for his name remembering abilities. Imagine their name written boldly in your favorite color of permanent marker.
- Write it down. This was Dale Carnegie’s trick. As soon as he could break away from the speaker, he wrote the name down. Just the act of writing tells your Reticular Activating System (your brain’s traffic cop that determines what’s worth remembering and what’s not) that this is important. If you can’t break away, imagine writing the name in your mind as you make the pen movements with your fingers. It has nearly the same effect.
- Make a picture. Another trick to get your traffic cop’s attention is to associate the person and his/her name with a picture in your mind. The more bizarre, the better. For example…
- If a person’s name is Carl, you might imagine him as a giant curl of hair.
- If a person’s name is Amy, you might imagine her as an arrow aimed at a giant bulls-eye.
- If a person’s name is Tony, you might picture him/her as a giant tiger with black and orange stripes eating a bowl of breakfast cereal. (You get the idea….)
- Use it at least three times. Use it while you are talking to the person, again during conversation with him/her if you can, again when you say goodbye and then again when you tell someone else about your conversation with that person.
One other thing…when you meet someone again, and you suspect that they might not remember your name, they will always appreciate it if you offer it right up front as you shake their hand. It will save them from a lot of embarrassment, and it usually prompts them to return the favor.