Remembering people’s names is a great way to impress people and to make them warm to you quickly. There’s a guy at my gym who signed me up about six months ago and now whenever he sees me around he greets me with a hearty ‘Adam! Welcome back man, how are you?’. Every single time I’m impressed that he went to the trouble of remembering, touched that I obviously left a positive lasting impression and moved to write good things about him for the comments box. It’s a very simple thing to remember a name and yet it can really make people feel good about themselves and more confident in you. Whether it’s your personal relationships or your career, you’d be surprised by just how far this simple act can get you.
That’s easier said than done however, and unfortunately some of us struggle to remember the name of our partners let alone the hundreds of people we meet every day at work and on our travels. You might mean well but if you encounter a lot of people in a day it’s just too easy to muddle everyone up.
Fortunately this is something to be learned, so if you want to quickly become more popular and start impressing your colleagues, employers and business partners here are some tips that can help you to remember more names more accurately.
Repeat Their Names
Normally when you’re introduced to someone you will be told their names and then invited to shake hands. As you shake, a great technique is to simply repeat that name that you just heard. So if their name is Jake, you shake their hand and say firmly ‘Hi Jake, nice to meet you’.
The reason this technique works so well is that it means you get to say the name and so engage with it rather than just listening to it. You’re much more likely to remember something you said than something you heard, so already this increases your chances of committing the name to memory.
This technique has a range of other benefits too. For one, it will make you sound both confident and attentive; in one study it was found that waiters who repeat the orders they’re given receive over 10% more on their tips. Meanwhile repeating the name also gives the person you’re talking to more of a chance to correct you if you’ve gotten it wrong which can avoid an awkward situation later on.
Now during the conversation you should try to use the person’s name as much as possible. Each time you do you’ll be practicing and cementing the name and hearing yourself say it more. At the same time though, you’ll also be further ingratiating yourself to that person every time you use their name – people like hearing their own name and are naturally more inclined to like the people using it. At the very least you should use their name once more when saying goodbye – the ‘primacy and recency effect’ shows that we are most likely to remember things that we hear at the start of a conversation and things we hear at the end.
Make a Conscious Effort
One of the simplest was to increase your chances of remembering a name is simply to make the conscious decision to do so. Usually when we’re introduced to someone we are too eager to say hello and dive into conversation, meaning we don’t think about making a mental note of their name. So next time just make a point to stop and tell yourself ‘remember’ – it can make a big difference.
Better yet, try repeating the name over a few times in your mind (‘Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill’) as this will help you to cement the sound of the name. Don’t do it out loud or you’ll quickly notice the space around you widen as everyone backs away. =)
Use Visual Aids
Just these few things are enough to make most people’s retention for names improve considerably but if you’re a particularly forgetful type and this isn’t enough on its own, you might want to consider using a visual pneumonic. A pneumonic, as you probably know, is any memory technique such as a rhyme or a visual cue that can act as a trigger or make something more memorable, and in this case it makes sense to use something constant about the person’s appearance. This might mean using alliteration ‘Ginger Gerry’ or finding a connection between their appearance and their name – if they’re called bill then is there anything they have in common with a duck (ducks have bills… )? This works well because as soon as you see the person they should trigger your memory technique thus bringing their name to mind. Note though that you should never tell them that they waddle like a duck as that will undo any good will you accomplished by remembering their name…