5 Tips for Remembering Names and …?
You’re standing at the front of the room at a business mixer with a friend, or your partner perhaps, when you see someone approaching you. You know their face but for the life of you, you can’t put a name to it. You’re starting to panic. They greet you, “Hi Joe, how’s it going?” and you freeze, because your partner is waiting for an introduction. Has this ever happened to you? If so, you’re not alone. Many people have trouble remembering names. Here are a few ideas to help you increase your skill at making the connection right at the beginning, and avoiding those embarrassing moments.
Make eye contact and repeat their name. When you first meet someone, it’s important to pay attention. If you don’t it may come back to haunt you! When the person is introduced, or if they introduce themselves, look into their eyes and repeat their name. “It’s nice to meet you Melissa.” Using the name out loud improves your ability to remember it.
Mentally repeat the name at least five times. As they are talking, or when they’ve left you to speak to someone else, repeat their name in your mind five times while continuing to look at them. During the course of the evening or the event, whenever you look at them, repeat their name in your mind.
Immediately introduce the person to someone else. “Hey Bill, I’d like you to meet Melissa Jones. She’s the account manager at Hart Beringer.” Saying the name aloud again and mentioning what company she is with puts another deposit into your memory bank.
Write down the person’s name. If it’s possible and appropriate, write the person’s name down. Ask for a business card – even if their name is printed on the card – write it down, along with the place you met. Writing things down builds memory association.
Make an association. This is by far the most effective way to remember people’s names, but it takes practice to become proficient at it. When you meet someone, really look at them – their face, distinguishing characteristics, what they’re wearing, their body shape, and see if you can think of some really identifiable characteristic that you can associate with their name. For a simple name like Bill Brown, you might use visual clues like his having brown hair, and wearing a green shirt that is the colour of a twenty dollar bill. Repeat the association in your mind.
Use these visual clues as nudges to jog your memory. The next time you see Bill Brown, you’ll remember his name even if his shirt is red and he’s dyed his hair purple. For more difficult names, break them into pieces or use similar words to get your clues. You’ve just met Chamille Woodruff. She happens to be drinking tea, and your favorite is chamomile – not exactly correct but close enough. She has a large uneven mole on her left arm that looks like a piece of driftwood, and you think it must be rough to go through life with a birthmark like that. Get the picture? It sounds silly but it really works. The wilder your image, the greater the chance you will remember the name.
Now that you have some tricks up your sleeve, you’ll never forget a name again, but what do you do when you are caught in a memory lapse?
Use the business card trick. If someone approaches you and you don’t remember their name, before you even get to the introductions, ask them if they have a business card. “Nice to see you again – do you have a current business card? I like to keep my contacts current.” They hand you their card and voila – you glance down and catch their name on the card.
Use humour if appropriate. In an informal gathering you might point fun at yourself getting old or having a memory like a screen door. If you can make someone laugh, they’ll forgive you and you’ll be on your way to conversation in no time. If you’re in a more formal or serious setting, you might want to defer the humour and go straight to apologies.
If all else fails, be gracious, admit your faux pas and apologize. “I’m sorry, your name has just escaped me.” Or, “Please forgive me – I’ve met so many people today and I can’t remember your name.”
Remembering someone’s name makes them feel important and valuable. Put these skills to work right away. The sooner you implement a new behaviour, the better your chances of making it a permanent one.