It’s one of my personal frustrations that I am naturally terrible at remembering names. I place great value on truly connecting with other people, and I know one of the simplest ways you can make someone feel recognized is to remember and speak their name. Plus, let’s face it, blanking on someone’s name whom you’ve met before — or worse, just been introduced to — is borderline rude, and fully embarrassing.
How many of us have been there, awkwardly trying to get someone to repeat their name so we can make a proper introduction, or using all sorts of nonspecific phrases, “hey there!” to work around the issue. According to an articleon Psychology Today, this issue just worsens with age, as nearly 85% of middle-aged and older adults forget names. (Not sure what my excuse was at age 25, but I do admit retrieval is getting harder.)
It’s understandable. When we meet someone, we have a lot to take in — from their appearance, to the conversation, to other distractions happening around us. With our increasing reliance on the Internet as a substitute for flexing our memory, research indicates memorization of any kind is becoming a lost art.
Remembering names is important on so many levels. It makes people feel good to hear their name, and they pay greater attention. Studies show that hearing our name activates our brain, even when it’s spoken in a noisy room. You may notice that influential leaders take care to use people’s names, and even mention personal aspects that they share in common. This isn’t by accident — they know it matters and use it. We feel better when The Power of Presence:... Best Price: $2.01 Buy New $5.99 (as of 02:00 EST - Details) people remember us (and worse when they don’t).
If you’re like me though, and want to get better at name recognition, take heart. There are ways to dramatically increase your ability to catch names, and keep them top of mind. Here are some tricks I’ve learned that work. Try them for yourself:
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.
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