feel a bit like Zsa Zsa Gabor who once said, "I call everyone 'Darling' because I can't remember their names." Despite all the possible reasons for forgetting names, there are three critical building blocks that prepare you for success:
I. Commitment. Make a deliberate conscious decision to improve this skill. Realize its importance, set it as a goal, and commit to achieve it.
II. Attitude: Never again say, "I'm horrible at remembering names." Eliminate this self-limiting attitude. Instead, declare what's possible: "I enjoy remembering names and I'm good at it!"
III. Practice, practice, practice. Begin today and use the tips below to learn the names of at least five people. Add one or two to your list every day. The memory muscle grows with practice and repetition.
Now that you've laid the proper groundwork of commitment, attitude, and practice, the following seven techniques will help you learn, remember and use others' names effectively.
1. Focus on the person. The instant you meet another person, give them your undivided attention. Fully face them by squaring your shoulders toward them. Look them in the eye, shake hands, smile with your eyes, and listen intently. Listen for that "sweetest most important sound" and make it a top priority to learn and remember the person's name. Don't multitask or allow yourself to become distracted. And don't let yourself off the hook by blaming a bad memory. Forgetting names is most often caused by lack of focus and effort rather than a deficient memory.
2. Repeat their name aloud. Let's say a colleague introduces you to a recently hired coworker named Jeff. As you smile and shake hands, immediately repeat his name aloud: "Hi Jeff. It's nice to meet you. Welcome to our department. How do you like your job so far?" After Jeff answers, reply by saying his name aloud again: "That's great, Jeff. I'm glad to hear it's going well...so what projects are you working on?" By saying the person's name aloud several times in the conversation, you anchor their name in your memory.
3. Immediately ask the person an open-ended question. In the above example, you may ask, "Jeff, how do you like your job so far?" or "What projects are you working on?" or "What's your experience in the xyz industry?" By asking the person a question right away, you accomplish two goals. First, you show interest in them by inviting them to talk about themselves. Second, while they're talking, you have the opportunity to practice steps four and five below which further anchor their name in your brain.
4. Repeat their name silently. As the other person is answering your question, repeat their name silently in your mind. In the above example, think to yourself, "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff..." Of course, be sure to listen to what Jeff is saying and provide nonverbal cues to show you're interested and paying attention. Simultaneously, continue saying to yourself, "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff." Though this may sound tough at first, the brain is more than capable of handling these two tasks at the same time.
5. Make a vivid association between their name and something familiar to you. As the conversation continues and you're silently saying to yourself, "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff," link his name with something familiar to you. The more bizarre and exaggerated the visualization the better. (The other person will never know your image, so make it a memorable one!) There are several ways to do this:
a) Rhyme. In the above example, you may pick a word that rhymes with the name Jeff, such as "Chef Jeff." Visualize Jeff wearing a chef's hat, cooking in your kitchen, wearing your favorite pot on his head (the more bizarre the better).
b) Famous Person. Link Jeff to a famous Jeff, such as Jeff Bridges or Jeff Foxworthy. Perhaps you have a relative or friend named Jeff to use as an association.
c) Alliteration. Choose an image which starts with the same sound, such as Jumping Jeff, Jolly Jeff, or Judge Jeff with respective images; or link Jeff to an alliterative animal or car, such as Jaguar Jeff or Jeep Jeff. It doesn't really matter what technique you use, so long as the association you choose quickly comes to mind and serves as a vivid trigger for recall.
6. Conclude the interaction by saying their name. As your conversation draws to a close, be sure to say the person's name one last time, "It was great to meet you, Jeff, and I look forward to working with you."
7. Write down their name. After meeting someone new, write or record their name for later reference and recall. Add them to your contacts along with some details about your conversation. Before a meeting where you may see them again, take a moment to review your notes.
In today's fast-paced technology-driven culture, the human touch is often left by the wayside. Though our tools of communication have changed, our need for meaningful human interaction remains constant. We all want to feel important, valued and remembered. We all want to hear our own name, 'the sweetest and most important sound,' spoken by others. When you take the time and make the effort to learn and use someone's name, you not only make a positive and lasting impression on them, you stand out as a person who has mastered the first step in creating rapport and building a meaningful relationship. With commitment, a can-do attitude and continued practice, you'll be a pro at remembering names in no time!
If you'd like more tips and techniques on effective communication skills and effective presenting please read my book, Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results (available in hard cover, Kindle, and audio).
Feel free to contact me directly to schedule an in-house corporate training event for your team. I would be honored to support your presentation and communication success.