By Sarah Watson
Contributing author: Deiric McCann
How many times have you been introduced to someone new and just seconds later when it comes time to introduce them to someone else you’ve forgotten their name? It’s embarrassing, to say the least. It can also make you look unprofessional and uninterested. All it takes is a little extra effort and you can avoid the awkward moment of having to ask for someone’s name a second time. The following tips will ensure you never forget anyone’s name again:
1. Switch off the internal dialogue. As you’re reading this article take a moment to examine what else is flying around in your mind – lots of things, right? It’s no different in social or business situations where you’re meeting people for the first time. Instead of focusing on who you’re meeting, you’re wondering if you turned off the coffee maker before you left the house, if you have everything ready for the presentation you have to give in an hour, what time you have to pick up your child from soccer practice, etc. With all of that internal dialogue going on, it’s no wonder you can’t remember Karen’s name. Or was it Kim? It should come as no surprise that you can’t remember someone’s name, because in reality you didn’t try to remember it in the first place. So, be aware of your internal dialogue and make a conscious effort to focus your attention exclusively on the person you’re meeting. When you find yourself drifting inwards, step out. Stay external by preparing to remember.
2. Listen. Good listeners rarely forget names. Look at all the people you know who are good at remembering names. Picture their conversational contribution and you’ll find that it’s weighted towards listening, NOT talking. Learn to listen actively. When a new person’s name is introduced into the conversation, be sure you hear it!
3. Bury the new name in your memory. First, repeat it in a sentence. Simple everyday courtesy phrases like, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Marie,” will do it. This has two effects: first, it puts the name immediately into your short-term memory and second, it makes the new person feel good. Dale Carnegie rightly said that “the sweetest sound in any language is the sound of one’s own name.” If it’s an unusual name, ask them to spell it. This implants it even deeper in your memory and builds rapport. Finally, think about the name itself. Does it sound like anything else? Is there any way you can make a memorable association? Some names are easier to remember than others. If there’s no obvious association, then consider what their name sounds like or if it rhymes with an easier word to remember.
4. Make Eye Contact. When meeting someone, look at them. Make eye contact and smile. Imagine the name of your new acquaintance written in big luminous letters across his or her forehead. Then observe: What makes their face interesting and different? Does he or she have an interesting hair or eye color? You don’t have to stare them down to do this effectively. All of this can be picked up in a few quick glances – if you take the time to notice.
5. Bring it all together. Now you’ve got the name, you’ve got some memorable association, and you’ve got some distinguishing physical features (avoid using jewelry, clothes etc. since they may not be wearing them the next time you meet!) Now, construct a mind-picture for this person. Connect their unique physical features with their name’s association to create a picture that will pop into your mind next time you meet them. The sillier you make the picture, the better. This is an absolutely infallible system; apply it and you’ll never forget someone again. Richard Marsh of Dale Carnegie tells of instructing a class in this technique using his own name as an example. “To remember my first name, imagine me in the armor of King Richard the Lion Heart…see my face inside the elaborate visor…now, to remember my surname see me emerge in my full armor from a marsh, a bog…notice how the weight of the armor is making me sinking in the bog…” From meeting many people over the years who had attended a DC program, he knew this worked quite well – until someone walked proudly up to him in the streets and said, “I took your course a few years ago and I can still remember your name – you’re Dick Boggs!”
As you read this you’re probably thinking, “What if I’m meeting dozens of people in a room, one after another, surely I won’t have time to build one of these connections for everyone?” You will. With a little practice this becomes so automatic and instantaneous that you’ll find a mind-picture pops into your head pretty much instantaneously for every new person you meet. The key thing to remember people and their names is to WANT to remember them badly enough to make the extra effort. After that, the approach above will ensure that every new face and name is filed away in your mental Rolodex.
What tricks do you use for remembering peoples’ names?