Do you suck at remembering names? You’re not alone.
How many times have you heard somebody say: “I’m terrible with names!” ?
It’s always said in a self-deprecating manner. As if the person needs to excuse himself from the embarrassment of forgetting.
As normal as it seems, you are actually missing out on a tremendous opportunity to stand out and be memorable by not remembering someone's name.
I actually take pride in being able to remember the name of someone that I’ve just met. I consider it an advantage in building relationships.
Dale Carnegie, author of the widely read book on human relationships, "How to Win Friends and Influence People", emphasizes the power of names in an entire chapter. He says that a person's name is the "sweetest sound” to their ears. When you use someone's name in conversation, you make that person feel seen and create a much deeper connection with them.
According to Carnegie, the way to get better at remembering names is to find opportunities to use a person’s name in conversation. The more you say someone's name, the more it sticks in your mind.
However, there’s a problem with this…
What if you meet someone that you will definitely meet again in the future? It could be the next day or the next week. Most likely, you won’t remember their name the next time. And when you do, the embarrassing question will come up: “I’m sorry, but could you remind me of your name again?”
I have a solution that will save you from such an embarrassment! I’ll illustrate it with a short story:
Last year, I moved to a new neighborhood and found a lot of new neighbors whose names I needed to learn. As I was walking to my driveway one day, I saw an older couple walking their dog by my house. We greeted each other and I mentioned I had recently moved to the area.
After some small talk, they introduced ourselves. “I’m Ken, this is my wife Belinda, and our dog, Bo”.
“Nice to meet you all”, I replied, thinking to myself that I have to remember three names now! After some more conversation, we all took off.
Knowing these were my neighbors and I would see them again, I thought it would be important to remember their names. What I did next was so easy to do, yet no one does it because no one cares enough to get to know the people around them.
I simply took out my phone, opened the Notes app, and wrote down Ken and Belinda’s names, along with their dog, Bo.
A couple of weeks later, I saw Ken walking Bo down the street, approaching my house again. I had completely forgotten all of their names at this point. However, before I went outside to greet Ken, I pulled out my Notes app and refreshed my memory. I greeted Ken and Bo by name and exchanged some pleasantries. He never mentioned my name at all during the conversation and I know why: he forgot it, just like me. I expected it because no one really takes the time to remember someone's name. But I had an advantage because I wrote it down.
Why do I do this? As Dale Carnegie mentioned, a person’s name is the sweetest sound to their ears. You build rapport quickly with someone when you use their own name in conversation. It makes them feel important because the person feels like you cared enough about them to remember their name. You stand out immediately in their eyes compared to anyone else they have met.
You are likely thinking: “But wait a minute? You cheated! You didn’t remember Ken’s name. You wrote it down and checked it right before you met him”.
That’s right, I did! But here is the power of this simple trick. I rarely have to remind myself of someone’s name more than 2 to 3 times. The simple act of just writing someones name and referencing it a couple of times is enough to help me remember it without having to rely on my Notes app all the time. No one is at a disadvantage because of this “cheat”.
Some may see it as a crutch, but I value building relationships and consider small gestures, such as remembering someone's name, to be crucial in cultivating strong relationships.
I often think about the handful of people that I’ve met in my life that have remembered my name. I’ve always viewed them differently from everyone else. They had a charisma about them; a vibe that I couldn’t find from many people. They made themselves impressionable to me.
Life is all about relationships. You can only get so far doing things on your own. Our world is becoming more and more competitive; everyone is trying to standout and separate themselves from others, especially on social media. People are becoming more disconnected, self-centered, and forgetful. Those who make an extra effort to build strong relationships and cultivate goodwill with others will stand out from the rest. We need to go back to the basics of learning key relationship principles and establishing systems and tool, like my simple system for remembering names, to help strengthen our people skills.
If you try this system for remembering names and have found success with it (or not) please let me know in the comments. I would love to hear how this works for you.