Remembering names seems like it comes naturally to some people, while others struggle.
But I’ve found most people who have difficulty remembering names just need to learn how to do three things:
- Change your attitude
- Pay attention (and slow down!)
- Use new names immediately
Change Your Attitude!
More often than not, the main reason people aren’t good at remembering names is their own negative self-talk! Have you ever given yourself the opportunity to be good at remembering names?
The first step in being better at remembering names is to concentrate on changing your attitude. Start by telling yourself this:
“It’s important to me to remember people’s names.”
I grew up with seven siblings. Most of them have kids—I have 16 nieces and nephews, and 18 great-nieces and great-nephews. And not only do I know all of their names, I know their birthdays too.
That’s not because I’m really great at remembering birthdays. It’s because birthdays are important to me, so remembering them is important to me too. (Even though I might not always remember to send a gift!)
Remembering the names of clients or business contacts is just like remembering family birthdays. If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not important, you’ll find an excuse.
If you’ve been using the excuse, “I’m just not good at remembering names,” what you’re really saying is, “Remembering names is not important to me.” And I’ll bet you don’t actually believe that!
The second reason people can’t remember names is because they weren’t listening. You have to pay attention when someone introduces themselves to you.
If you’re looking at a group of 15 people that you’re about to meet, and you’re nervous about meeting so many people at once, then you’re not going to be paying attention! Instead, slow down, pay attention, and listen to each person’s name. (When I’m meeting a group of people, I listen to their first name ONLY!)
Don’t worry about stopping in the middle of a round of introductions to be sure you got someone’s name right. Take your time! There’s no shame in going back through the list of names to make sure it’s sticking with you.
Use New Names Immediately
When someone introduces themselves to me, I try to repeat their name three (sometimes four) times back to them, immediately.
First, I’ll repeat their name back to them as a question: “Mark?” Then right away, I use it again: “Hi Mark, I’m Dew. Nice to meet you.”
Note that I’m not saying “Hi, Mark Smith!” Again, I’m not trying to remember Mark’s last name right now, so I’m only repeating his first name.
If you’re meeting three or more people, go back through the circle and say their name one more time—while everyone’s listening. Not only does it help you remember (and likely a few others in the group), it shows the group that learning names is important to you.
Unique Names Are Worth Getting Right
One last tip: Whenever you meet someone with a unique name, don’t pass over it like it’s no big deal. They’ll be even more impressed when you say their name back to them correctly. People with unusual names are used to being called dude: “Bye, great to meet you, dude!”
It is absolutely worth the time to slow down, get them to repeat their name, and make sure you’re getting it right. On multiple occasions in my career, taking the time to correctly learn a unique name really paid off later.
If you have a unique name, it’s helpful to come up with a way for people to easily remember your name. For example, “My name is Elodie; it sounds like Melody without the M.”
You Can Do It!
If you’ve been telling yourself you’re “just not good with names,” I hope these tips will help you resolve to be more confident in the future! Remember that Henry Ford quote:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
Until next time—go sell some stuff!