Mission Possible: 3 Fail proof ways to remember names


“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is one of William Shakespeare’s famous lines from Romeo and Juliet.

But, I’m sure you will agree that, in business, your name matters and you don’t want to be called by the wrong name. Remembering and using people’s names is the most powerful and authentic way to build connections. Yet, sadly, most people claim that they are hopeless with names.

If you are reading this, chances are we have worked together. My clients always comment on how good I am with names (and how brilliant I am with storytelling!). Surprisingly, I get very few comments on my modesty, but remembering names always impresses.

Here are some things that work for me:

Channel Bob and Barrack
So often, whether it is a new exercise program or a tool, our mindset matters. I am going to ask you to adopt a useful belief: honing your name recall is a skill, and we can all get better at it. It’s literally a muscle that you can grow. So channel Bob the Builder (and the slogan used by the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign) and respond with “Yes we can!”

Anchor in your senses
When you hear someone’s name, you need to anchor it in your senses.Kinaesthetically in physical contact, a handshake works best. You hear their name so your auditory senses are engaged. Another anchoring method is repeating their name back to them while maintaining constant eye contact, thereby using your aural and visual senses. When you repeat their name back make sure it is not done in a creepy way! And don’t try too hard. Weave their name back in a sentence such as ‘*|FNAME|*, thank you for reading this.’

If you’ve never been very good at names, you probably didn’t use these anchor points. It is important to use at least 3 senses, otherwise it is like trying to pitch a tent with only one peg. While anchoring in your senses is pretty failproof, the downside is that if you get a name wrong, that gets anchored too and is hard (but not impossible) to rewire!

Practice
Finally, it’s all about practice. Start with two names today–your barista and the IT help desk person. And then build on it.

So your mission should you choose/decide to accept it, is to try these strategies. And please comment, I love hearing from you.

P.S. My personal best is 100 names in a room. I know!!

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2 Comments
  • Amelia
    Reply

    wow, 100 names is incredible.

    for people whose name I have trouble remembering time after time (is it Kirsten or Kristen?), I like to make connections with other knowledge. “Oh, she’s elegant and so is Kristen Scott Thomas. They’re both elegant, they’re both Kristen.” Works well too.

    • Yamini
      Reply

      Angela love your tip – a very elegant way of remembering and names that are similar or close can trip us up.
      Best wishes
      Yamini

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