I pass the same woman everyday in my apartment building. She is responsible for cleaning the lobby. Every time I see her, I give her a big smile and say hello. Sometimes she mumbles something back, sometimes she just looks at me and other times she doesn’t even acknowledge me. Nevertheless I keep trying, each day hoping to see her smile. After a few weeks, I decided I had to try something different. I announced to my wife that tomorrow, I would get her to smile.
That day on my way home from work, I saw her again. I walked up to her and apologized. “I’m sorry”, I said, “I always say hello to you, but I never asked you your name.” “Maria”, she replied. We talked for a little while and I returned home.
The next morning my wife and I took the elevator downstairs into the lobby. There was Maria, just as I had thought. “Good morning Maria”, I exclaimed with a big smile. She stopped sweeping, looked up at me and smiled. “Good morning!” she answered. My wife smiled too.
The most beautiful word in the world is our own name. We can’t resist it. Dale Carnegie, author of the timeless classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People understood this concept very well. He wrote, “Franklin D. Roosevelt knew that one of the simplest most obvious and most important ways of gaining good will was by remembering names and making people feel important-yet how many of us do it?”
One of the most common excuses is, “I am bad with names.” We have all heard it. Perhaps you have said it. Eliminate this kind of thinking. You can be good with name and I’ll show you how.
7 tips to learn names
#1. Ask everyone, it’s never too late
Be sure to always ask for people’s names. Many of the people we meet, will cross our paths again. Taking the time to learn their names will allow you to have a special connection with them. Don’t be afraid if you have known someone for months and still don’t know their name. It is never too late to ask. People are always happy to tell you. They will appreciate the gesture, regardless of how late.
#2. Listen to their response
When you meet someone new, your mind is processing so much information at once. Everything from who they are, why are they important, what do they sound like, what do they look like, what is their body language like, etc… With all this new information it is not uncommon to ask their name and not pay attention to the answer. If you miss it the first time, don’t be afraid to apologize and ask again. At first you will still miss many names, but with time you will become more and more accustomed to listen to their response.
#3. Get the correct pronunciation
Especially for someone who has a name that is not common in your country, it is important to pay close attention to the pronunciation. Repeat it back and make sure that you get it right. Most people are patient when you are trying to learn because they love their name and they want you to get it right. Once you get it right, you will find that eventually it will stick in your mind. You probably aren’t used to having your name mispronounced. Few people in the U.S. had trouble with Craig. Now that I live in Brazil, it’s “Greggy” “Gregory” “Craigy” and my personal favorite “CRAque”
#4. Take a mental photo
It’s much easier for most people to remember images rather than words. Pay attention to what the person looks like as you repeat the name in your head. Don’t be a weirdo about it, be sure to keep talking, but definitely make the association. Be sure to focus on things that likely won’t change. It would be a bad idea to focus on hair or clothes, but all people have somethings that are distinctively them.
#5. Write it down
As soon as the conversation is over, write it down. If you don’t know the spelling, you could write it down phonetically. Whatever helps you remember it. I keep a little file in my phone, sometimes sorted by the location I am most likely to see the person (neighbor, business, church). Also write down something about the person. For example, the woman who cuts my hair looks like she could be related to my brother’s fiancee Betty. I wrote down “Betty’s aunt” in my phone. I have never forgotten her name. This is also a good place to write down any other important things about the people (family members, business, etc..).
#6. If you don’t remember cheat
Let’s say you followed all the steps, chances are you will remember the name. But what if you don’t? At this point you may be too embarrassed to go back and ask the name again. Don’t be afraid to cheat. Ask someone else who also knows the person. Most people won’t even think twice about it. Worst case scenario, I just ask them to spell their name. Usually this is enough to help me figure it out.
#7. Don’t stress, have fun with it
Make a game out of it. Don’t be hard on yourself. It’s funny sometimes when I remember a random person’s name and I can see them trying their hardest to think of mine. Many times, I do save them and just say. Just let learning names be a part of who you are.
Never underestimate the power of learning a name. In a world that has gotten too impersonal, there is something special about that person who rememebers your name. People feel more important and cared about when they know that you really know who they are. Don’t just learn the names of the heads of the company, learn everyone’s names. You can brighten someone’s day just by showing that you care.
What tricks to you use to remember names? Let me know in the comments. If you like this please share it. I would love to learn your name. Send me an email and lets connect.
I’m a business owner from California now living my dream in Brazil. I’m passionate about using business to help others. If you’d like to connect, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I answer all e-mails and it would be a pleasure to hear from you. Many thanks, Craig.