“A person’s name is the single context of human memory most apt to be forgotten.” - Sigmund Freud
by Russ Peterson and Kevin Karschnik
Have you ever walked into a room of familiar people and realized you couldn’t put their names with their faces? You were drawing a blank and were too embarrassed to ask anyone. So you went about your business saying, “Hey, good to see you”, hoping to make the best of the situation. Unfortunately, these uncomfortable situations are all too common.
When you can remember someone’s name, it establishes a foundation of trust and respect, while making you appear highly knowledgeable and credible. According to Dale Carnegie, a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. People love the sound of their own name, and hearing it out loud makes people feel comfortable.
"Using a person’s name is crucial, especially when meeting those we don’t see very often. Respect and acceptance stem from simple acts such as remembering a person’s name and using it whenever appropriate." - Dale Carnegie
However, learning names is difficult for many people. When you are initially introduced to someone, you are trying to overcome the anxiety of meeting someone new, while thinking about making eye contact, smiling, shaking hands, and thinking about what you want to say. When the other person states their name, it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other, it usually bypasses the ear altogether. It’s not that you can’t remember someone’s name after 10-seconds, you simply were not listening.
Feeling like you are not capable of remembering names starts with ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). In both business and personal circumstances, forgetting names can lead to embarrassing situations. Below are a few techniques to help remember people’s names. Also, remember to be patient with yourself when you put these new skills to practice; it takes 21 days to form a new habit.
- Start with the right Attitude. – Stop automatically thinking, “I’m bad with names”, “I always forget people and their names”, or “I can’t remember names”. When you say these statements you are simply justifying why you will not even try to remember names. Instead, make a conscious decision to drop the Automatic Negative Thoughts and focus on learning new techniques for improving your memory with people’s names.
- Stop and Listen – Stop, listen, and be aware of the person as they introduce themselves. Try not to think about what you are going to say when it is your turn to speak. Actively listen and focus on the person’s first name. Initially, it is easier to remember only their first name as opposed to their full name.
- Repeat their name - When you are first introduced to someone, use their name several times when you talk to them. Repeating the person’s name within the first few seconds is an excellent way of locking this information into your long-term memory and a superb technique for the person who learns best with the Auditory process.
- Write their name - Write down the new name three times while picturing the person's face. When you write the person’s name on paper, it creates an image in your short and long-term memory. This is an excellent technique for the person who is a Kinesthetic learner, someone who learns by doing.
- Create a Connection - Connect the person in your mind with someone that you already know or by associating them with a famous person (actor or actress), a picture, a physical feature, or their hobby or profession. Relating the name with something familiar to you will help you remember that person’s name. A Visual learner would benefit from the descriptive picture created in their mind.
- Review - This final step is dependent on how long you want to remember the person’s name. You do not need to do this with every person. However, if you want to remember someone long term, review the name later in the day, the following day, and again one week after your introduction. This review process will help ensure the person is stored in your long-term memory.
Tip: If you forget someone’s name, do not be embarrassed to ask them again. Simply apologize, ask for their name and use one of the techniques above to help retain it. Even though you asked for their name again, it shows that you are interested in them.
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