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What’s in a Name? Everything! Five Rules to Help You Remember

How are you at remembering people’s names?

A.  Fantastic
B.  Not so hot
C.  Embarrassingly bad
If you are like most people, you’ve checked off either B or C.
When it comes to remembering people’s names, the typical excuses include, “I’m good with faces, but not names,” or “I just have a mental block and I’ll never be good at it.”
Why is it that you can meet someone, learn his or her name, and four seconds later, smile at him or her while thinking to yourself, “I have no idea what your name is?"
Or why is that you’d rather yell out a random nickname like “Hey Big Guy!” instead of saying, “I’m sorry, please tell me your name again” when you forget a person’s name?

There are many reasons why we forget names, but the truth is, none of them matters.  What matters is this:  if you can’t remember a person’s name, you can’t create a strong connection with him; it’s that simple.  Moreover, if you can’t connect with clients, potential clients, colleagues, and acquaintances, you’re in trouble.

The following five tips will help you remember names. They are simple in theory, but require practice, commitment, and repetition. However, you’ll find that the benefits will be well worth the effort.
Rule #1: Ask people for names
How many times have you been to the same gym, market, or church where you see the same people and never bother to introduce yourself? Think of the personal connections and professional opportunities you could be passing up! When it comes to asking people’s names, simply think: “Jump in the water; it’s not that cold.” Be an initiator. Approach others showing courage on the outside, no matter how you feel inside.
Rule #2:  Spell and pronounce names correctly
These are paired together because they require similar efforts in clarifying (not assuming) for accuracy. I was once introduced to speak to 500 people in the following manner: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr. Joe Takass” (instead of Takash). This is not a lie. Taking time to assure the correct spelling and pronunciation is a critical detail.
Rule #3:  Ask again when you forget
This may be the best but most underused tool. All of us forget names immediately a whopping 80% of the time. By asking people again and again, you are simply informing them that you value them and their name is an attachment to that value. If the person gets upset simply tell him or her, “I’m very sorry, I just want to respect you by getting your name right.” It’s hard to argue with that.
Rule #4:  Remember!
To lock names into your mental hard drive, use every tool possible. This can include rhymes like “Dan the man” or associations like “Rhonda from Reno.” Remembering requires an eclectic effort. Write names down, repeat them out loud, repeat them to yourself. Work hard at developing this skill and you’ll see definite improvement in your ability to remember names.
Rule #5: Use them or lose them
Whether in writing, on the phone or in person, use people’s names.  People love seeing and hearing their own names.  When your name is called as someone who contributed to the success of a great team effort, it feels great. When your daughter’s name is on the Dean’s List, it looks like a work of art. Knowing names increases your confidence, makes others feel great, and is a competitive advantage in business.
So, what’s in a name? Everything!

About the Author(s)

Joe Takash is the founder of executive development and presentation excellence firm Victory Consulting.  He is the author of Results through Relationships: Building Trust, Performance and Profit Through People (Wiley, 2008). For more information visit www.VictoryConsulting.com