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Five Tips To Help You To Remember People’s Names

July 1st, 2014 by Karen Climer

If it applies to you, happy fiscal new year!  If you are on a different fiscal schedule, I hope you have a good day too.

Yesterday, I promised I would help you remember names.  Two things happened to me that made me get better at learning names.  First, I worked for Dale Carnegie Training.  In the Dale Carnegie Course, we taught people how to remember names, so I had to remember the names of the students in the class.  This was about the integrity of the program I was teaching.  Second, I started working with children.  More on that later.

So how can you get better at remembering names?

First, don’t say, “I’m not good with names…”  That does not give you a pass.  What you are really saying is, “You just aren’t that important to me.”   Besides that, life is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  As long as you say you aren’t good with names, you will do what you need to do to make that statement true.

Dale Carnegie says, “A person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language.”  When you use a person's name, you let him know that he is important to you.

Dale Carnegie says, “A person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language.” When you use a person’s name, you let him know that he is important to you.

Second, listen to the name and get it right at the beginning.  If you introduce yourself to me, and one minute later, I can’t call you by name, it is always always always because I didn’t pay attention in the first place.  Too often, we ask someone’s name, but don’t really listen.  They are introducing themselves, but we are thinking, “OK, is it my turn to talk, yet?”  If you can’t remember someone’s name who just introduced themselves 30 seconds ago, the problem is that you never got their name in the first place.

If you have to ask someone twice or more to get their name, do that.  I mentioned working with children.  Young children are not always articulate, especially when talking to someone they don’t know.  If I ask a kid his name, and he mumbles something that I couldn’t understand, I will continue to ask until I get it right, even if it takes ten times (with 3-4 year olds, after about four times they quit mumbling).  But once you know their name, you have more control of the situation.  This is where I learned to ask until I get it right, even if it takes longer than I thought it would.

Third, repeat their name.  If someone tells me his name is Jim, I usually repeat it back, “Jim?”  Then he’ll confirm it.  This lets you repeat it, and it lets him correct you if his name is actually Tim.  This is also helpful if it is a foreign name or an unusual name.  It helps you get the pronunciation correct.  If he corrects, you keep trying until you get it right.  I can’t stress this part enough.

Fourth, repeat their name.  (Yes, repeat it again) If you are at an event with other people, introduce the new person to someone you know.  That cements their name in your brain.

Fifth, use visual association.  This is what I learned in Dale Carnegie, and it’s what helps me learn a lot of names quickly but remember them for a long time.  If someone says their name is Lisa, I immediately look at that person’s face, focus on their face, and imagine them standing in Italy holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa (like the cheesy tourist photos).  Pisa rhymes (sort of ) with Lisa.  The next time I see that person’s face, I remember them holding up Pisa, so I call her Lisa.  If I meet a Brian, I imagine him crying.  If I meet a Bob, I imagine him bobbing out of the water like a floating thingy.  (There is no need to let other people know what you are thinking about as you do this.  In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t.)

Now, you might be thinking, “I can’t do that.”  Everything is difficult before it is easy.  There was a time when it took every brain cell you had to drive a car.  Now, you can do it with your eyes closed.  (It’s an expression!  Please don’t actually try that!)

None of this matters if you don’t get the name right in the first place.  That is the most important part.  If you meet someone, talked to her for one minute, and don’t remember her name at the end of interaction, I’d be willing to bet that you are not getting her name right in the beginning.  (This is the third time I’ve said that because it’s the most important part of this post.)

I do pretty well remembering names, but I do not do so well in using names.  I see people that I know well and say, “Hi.  How’s it going?  How are things over at the Big Company?”  Instead of saying, “Hi Jeff.  How’s it going?  How are thing over at the Big Company?”

So beginning today, I’m going to use people’s names more often.  I hope you will too.

Posted in Cultivation, Relationships

One Response

  1. Ron

    Thanks, Karen, for that great article.

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