24 October 2005

Do you have trouble remembering names?

Do you remember faces but have a hard time connecting them to names?

Remembering people's names is an important communication skill and very useful in business. Remembering people's names tells them that they are important, and it makes them feel valued. This is a great beginning to any interaction.

In my daily business activities I meet a lot of people, so I am continually faced with the following dilemma: should I say "nice to meet you? or "nice to see you again?"

I have blundered on this one enough to be certain that by nature I am terrible at remembering names. However, I have found a technique that seems to work well, when I remember to use it:

When the person first mentions their name, repeat it a few times in your head, and then create a simple, memorable word that rhymes with the name and will help you remember the person. For example, Caroline/vitamin; Bill/pill; Jim/dim, etc.

The time you spend trying to come up with a rhyme will cause you to focus on the name and the face intensely, helping you transfer the name/face link from your short-term to your long-term memory. This has the added value that when you first meet a person and are trying to think of a rhyme for their name, you will be looking at them thoughtfully, and it will seem as if you are profoundly interested in what they are saying.

At the first opportunity, write down the name before you forget it. On many long airplane flights, this technique has saved me from forgetting the name of the person sitting next to me.

For more tips take a look at the article from CNN that triggered the thought, Tricks to remembering names. I was surprised that my technique was not on the list. Here are the tips from CNN:

1. Be interested: Many of us don't even catch the other person's name when they're being introduced; we're too focused on ourselves. So the first step to remembering a name is to pay attention as you are introduced.

2. Verify it: Unless the person has introduced himself to you, verify what he or she wishes to be called. At a conference or seminar, for example, the name tag may have been typed incorrectly or it may be a more formal or informal version of the name they like to go by. Or someone else may have introduced you who doesn't know the person well. Asking what they prefer (e.g. "Jeff introduced you as Debbie, is that what you prefer to be called?") will not only cement the name in your mind, but ensure you are using the name that pleases them.

3. Picture it written on their forehead: Franklin Roosevelt continually amazed his staff by remembering the names of nearly everyone he met. His secret? He used to imagine seeing the name written across the person's forehead. This is a particularly powerful technique if you visualize the name written in your favorite color of Magic Marker.

4. Imagine writing the name: To take step three further, neural linguistic programming experts suggest getting a feel for what it would be like to write the name by moving your finger in micro-muscle movements as you are seeing the name and saying it to yourself.

5. Use word association: Try to connect a person's name with a familiar image or famous person. For example, if a woman's name is Jacqueline, picture her as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in a pink suit and pillbox hat. If a man's name is Arnold, imagine him as the "Terminator" or striking a body-builder pose.

6. Use it frequently: Try to use the name three or four times during your conversation. Use it when you first meet, when you ask a question and in your departure, e.g., "Daniel, it was a pleasure talking to you. Maybe we'll get a chance to chat again sometime."

7. Record the name in a "new contacts" file: Top sales representatives keep a record of new contact names and information, including where and when they met. Review it now and then, especially when you will be attending a conference or meeting where you may see these individuals again.

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5 comments:

Matt Vance said...

I just ran across your blog. There is some great information here and I suspect that I'll be spending a lot of time reading it in the future.

On the subject of remembering names, an audio book called "Quantum Memory Power" by Dominic O'Brien suggested using an association with the person's first name to imagine the person transported to that location. For me, it's usually a very quick association to make and the technique has worked well—when I remember to use it.

Anonymous said...

Good job stealing this from Career Builder @ MSN - http://msn.careerbuilder.com/Custom/MSN/CareerAdvice/423.htm?siteid=cbmsnhp4408&sc_extcmp=JS_iv1_sept04_home1>1=5785&cbRecursionCnt=3&cbsid=79c0f8287ec449e78b07d0071eec6e70-226515140-r7-4

Anonymous said...

One thing that I wanted to mention that's even worse than trying to remember a person's name is trying to remember 5+ peoples' names who you are just introduced to, one after the next. How to go about remembering THAT MANY? One isn't bad, but 5 or more at once?? Wow!

dave said...

Anonymous: At the five people mark I start writing down the names!

dave said...

Anonymous: I didn't steal anything and your link doesn't even work!