What’s your name again?

Scroll down to content


I went to a restaurant the other day that I had not been to in a while. When I sat down to order the waitress said, “Hi, it’s Julie, right? I haven’t seen you in a while”. How in the heck did this woman remember my name? It had been months since I was there, although I usually had to give my name for carry out. But still. And for some reason I felt really good that she remembered my name—like I was worth remembering. As I watched her move about her business I heard her use many other patrons’ names. I was impressed. And I left her a big tip.
Now I can usually remember names, but as I get older it seems to be a little more difficult. If you have a hard time remembering people’s names, here are some tips:
1. Meet and repeat.
When you get someone’s name, don’t just nod and continue the conversation, try to plug the name into what you’re saying. For example, if the man in front of you says his name is Mark, say, “Hi, Mark, nice to meet you.” Or ask a question with his name at the end, “How long have you been working in IT, Mark?”
Use the name throughout the conversation, but sparingly, and not in an overly salesy or repetitive way. When you’re saying goodbye, make sure to use the name one last time while looking them in the face, and make an effort to commit it to memory.
2. Spell it out.
Psychiatrist and memory expert Dr. Gary Small suggests asking someone to spell his or her name, especially if it’s an unusual one. This technique can be helpful if you have a visual memory, as it creates a mental picture of the person’s name.
It may also be helpful to ask for a business card, and to glance at the person’s name while you’re talking to them. This creates greater alignment between the person and the visual name.
Finally, after meeting someone, the first moment that you get, put them into your contacts with a few pieces of information that will help you remember them. This may include their appearance, children’s names, or interests
3. Associate.
Many experts suggest that you conjure a verbal game or image when you first hear a name. This could be an alliterative pattern involving something you know about the person, i.e. Forbes.com contributor Helen Coster gives the catchy example of “Joann from Jersey.” Or consider something about the person’s interests or job, i.e. Sarah’s in sales, so Sarah Sells.
Vivian Giang cites this advice she learned from the Dale Carnegie training course, “Picture images that sound like a person’s name — and combine it with other things you know about them. If you meet someone named Laura from Brazil, imagine her with a laurel wreath on her head swimming in the Amazon River.”
4. Make connections.
Another way association can be helpful is to make a connection between the person you’re talking to, and someone else you know with the same name, i.e. Carrie, like my sister.
I received a life-changing tip that was a spin on this from a speaker who spoke to my Vistage group years ago. After meeting the 15 people in our group very briefly, he proceeded to go around the room and repeat each of our names perfectly. His trick? As you meet someone, consider a famous person (or famous to you) who shares their first name and looks somewhat like them, i.e. Ryan looks like Ryan Gosling (if you could be so lucky.) I’ve found that it can be harder to make the association, but once you do, it’s locked in.
5. Choose to care.
Most psychologists and memory experts point out that one of the main reasons we forget someone’s name is that we’re not really focused on learning it in the first place. There’s too much else going on, and it’s vying for our attention.
Author Keith Ferrazzi’s first piece of advice for remembering names is to decide to care. “If you make a conscious decision that you are going to remember names,” he explains, “because you care about the people you meet, you will immediately become much better at doing it!”
Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in
I especially like the last one—choose to care. I am so grateful that I get to meet new people all the time, and now I am going to make a point to be present and use some of these tricks to remember their names. I know how special I felt when the waitress remembered my name. I hope to make someone feel that way too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: