I recently had the great pleasure of speaking at two global events, one for the Coca-Cola Company and one for an international law firm. In both sessions there were attendees from all over the world. I met people from Estonia, England, South Africa, France, Turkey and China. To those of you who attended the programs, and are reading my newsletter for the first time, a very warm welcome.
While there are certainly differences in culture and sensibilities in different countries, there are certain things that are universal, and one of them is remembering people’s names.
Shakespeare put it so well when he said “there is no sound so sweet as the sound of one’s own name.” You need only ask Idina Menzel how she felt at the 2014 Academy Awards when John Travolta introduced her as Adele Dazeem. She was very gracious about it, but did admit it threw her for “like eight seconds.”
So why it is so hard for many of us, even if we know people like us to remember their names, and it is often the first step to building rapport?
The answer is really not complicated. We simply don’t concentrate enough when we hear someone’s name for the first time. Generally, we are too busy taking in all the other information about the person, such as what they look like, how they are dressed, their facial expression, and their demeanor. Unless we are intentional, the name is easily forgotten.
So the secret is exactly that: be intentional. Make it a habit to listen carefully for a person’s name and then do one of the following:
- Repeat it to yourself several times, and then make sure you call the person by their name at least three times in the ensuing conversation.
- Listen out for the name and immediately associate the name with another person with the same name. For example, if you are introduced to a Brad, think Brad Pitt, or someone else you know by the name of Brad.
- If the name is more difficult, it helps to mentally rhyme the name with something familiar. For example. Nakia is something like Nokia, but with an “a”. You can be creative when you do this; no one ever needs to hear your association.
- If the name is really unusual, feel free to say “that is an interesting/unusual/lovely name…is it a family name?” You often get a really interesting story about the origin of the name.
- It is also reinforcing to ask someone how to spell his or her name. For example, I recently met a young man named McLain. So, I said: “McLain, how do you spell that?” Obviously you can’t use that technique if the person name is Ben.
- It is also perfectly acceptable, to say to someone “I know we have just been introduced, but I am having a blank moment, what is your name again?” Do it with a smile and nobody will be offended.
And, if you were wondering, yes, there are Apps like “Numerick” for remembering names!
As you can see there is no ONE way, but whatever method you choose, make it habitual, and you will be amazed how your name memory improves.