What Finally Helped Me Remember People’s Names–Which They LOVE
I can't tell you how many times I've heard the axiom that the sweetest thing a person can hear is the sound of their own name. It's been said by many over the years in different ways. And I would say, it's mostly true.
One of the most basic human needs we all have is to feel a sense of belonging and/or that we are "seen." It's wired into our DNA. So, remembering and using people's name in social and professional settings is a lesson worth learning. It's one of the fastest ways to establish a sense of connection with someone. If you can make them laugh, all the better.
That being said, many of us find it difficult to do. We've got many things vying for our attention and in the grand scheme of it all, this may seem less important. But, it's the "little things" that can very often turn into big things. So, how do we do it?
First step is being prepared when you meet someone for the first time:
Make sure you're listening, with intent, and paying attention when they tell you their name. As simple as this sounds, it's a HUGE first step in remembering. Even if the conversation continues, ten seconds later or so, see if you can repeat it in your mind.
Make the next sentence that you say to them include their name. I've heard professionals do this so many times. "It's delightful to meet you, Benji." (What? That's the first name that came to my mind.) Try to say it right after they tell you.
Don't be afraid to repeat it. Obviously, you don't want to sound like an intrusive AI weirdo, so take it easy. But, most people appreciate that you're seeking to learn their name. In fact, knowing you're may be charming to them. It may also cause them to have more interest in whatever it is you're telling them. When you're leaving the conversation, that's a great time to say it once more.
Once you've left the interaction, go back over it in your mind, and keep their face in your head as you do. Do this over the next couple of days and you'll find it gets easier and easier. It's a habit like anything else.
I also find it helpful to associate something with their name. Perhaps they have unique feature or you found them particularly nice to chat with. Incorporating emotions and memories can be hugely helpful.
Now let's look at some recommended ways to *actually* remember remember those names. (Disclaimer: some of these are chuckle-worthy, but hey if it works....)
It seems obvious, but really take a look at their face. Don't leer like a weirdo, of course. Just look at them. Often people are so distracted at social gatherings--take a moment and look at them. Face association is quite effective--especially now that we've got social media to back us up.
If you can remember their name and face long enough to find them on Facebook, then your task becomes much, much easier. Try to create an association with some physical trait defining feature.
This one, admittedly, is a bit silly. But hey, if it works. Sometimes, it's easier to remember some people's names more than others. For the ones you find most challenging, imagine writing their name on their forehead in your mind.
Use a bright color. Again, don't stare at their forehead and chuckle when you do this, that may not be well-received. Write each letter at a time in your mind while you repeat their name in your head. It can be helpful.
I had someone tell me once that when they met me, they always thought of the movie Gone with the Wind. However, one feels about this movie, they said he helped them remember my name because Scarlett's home was named "Tara." They said they'd play the music from the movie in their mind for awhile when they saw me because they'd associated it with learning my name.
I guess it worked because we're friends and they seem to remember my name. Whether or not they still play the music in their head, I'll leave to them. Try associating music or an image with that person to help you remember their name.
These are just a few recommended techniques from people I've heard over the years. We do our best to remember names, but at the end of the day, there's is NO shame in simply saying "I'm sorry, please remind me of your name."
People love "real" people. We all forget names from time to time, and showing vulnerability and humility can help people feel more connected with you. At the end of the day, that's what this should be about anyway.
That being said, the more you practice these techniques, the easier and more second nature they'll become.
Wanna practice at home? Pick a new show from Netflix and do your best to learn all of the new character's names by the end of the first or second episode.