Be the person who remembers names
Last year I was at a breakfast event. I knew most of the people in the cafe but there was one girl sitting across from me who I didn’t recognise. I excitedly introduced myself, “Hey I’m Haley! I haven’t met you yet, what’s your name?”
She flashed me a fake smile and gently (but clearly annoyed) said, “Yeah… we’ve met like three times now.”
It was one of those moments where everyone around us slowly turned away to sip their coffee.
At this point, I already thought of myself as a person who was good with names and faces. I knew the importance and how it made people feel to remember them.
Heck, I knew how it felt to have someone not remember me!
I kept seeing her every month at this event and I was never able to fully recover the situation.
So I use this memory as fuel to remind myself just how important it is to remember someone.
I’ll keep the overused quotes to a minimum but I think about this quote daily:
“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie
Our brains are wired with the need to feel important because if you’re important you’re less likely to be excluded from the tribe…and therefore die.
It feels good when someone remembers your name because it shows that you were worth remembering. You are important and probably won’t die. YAY!
Let's fix the problem.
Way too often I hear people say, “I’m so bad with names haha!” as if having a bad memory is an endearing part of their identity.
If this is you, that’s ok. You’re reading this blog which means you’re hoping to improve.
I only have a problem with those who don’t attempt to solve the problem.
Being bad at names means one of two things.
1) You aren’t listening and you’re too busy thinking about what you’re going to say next or
2) you don’t care enough to put the effort into remembering the name.
If your problem is listening...
The moment you introduce yourself to someone, there are about a million other thoughts floating around your brain. Here are some things you might be thinking about when you meet someone:
- Say your name and elevator pitch. Don't fumble your words.
- Ok I said my name. What do I say now? Do I ask a question?
- Hottie alert! I wonder if they're single.
- I forgot to do a teeth check. What if there's leftover spinach cozied up in between my teeth?????
- Do I hug or handshake? Hug is more personable. WOW ok that was an awkward hug I should have stuck with the handshake.
- It's cold in here, I should have brought a jacket.
- Oh boy, I definitely shouldn't have eaten a burrito for lunch.
- I should be doing the 37 items on my to-do list right now.
- Oh no, did I send that check-in to my boss?
- Don't... Yawn....
- I wonder if there's food here.
- I totally missed their name. What's their name again? Sam? Camille? Ashley? Fiona? No, it was definitely……ah crap, I give up.
Did you notice a trend? Most of these things revolve around you.
You’re so concerned about yourself that you’re not listening to the other person. Not even enough to catch their name.
I’m 100% guilty of this, in fact, every single one of those thoughts above have crossed my brain as I was meeting someone. The thoughts are particularly rampant if I'm not in the habit of meditating.
It’s natural to get wrapped up in your own head. But learn to take control of that crazy monkey mind.
If you’re missing out on their name, imagine what else you’re missing out on. You’re missing out on powerful human connection.
If your problem is caring...
Our names are an important part of our identity. If you can’t be bothered to remember someone’s name, you’re communicating on a deeper level, “You aren’t important enough to be remembered.” Even if it’s not intentional.
“I’m bad with names,” is a crutch.
You never hear anyone say they’re good with names. Be the person who’s good with names.
Here are some hacks I use to help me remember names.
1) Repeat it immediately, as if to clarify it which cements it in your head. If you DO end up forgetting, don’t be afraid to ask one more time.
New friend: “I’m Nick, nice to meet you."
You: “Nice to meet you NICK, how did you like the sushi rolls?”
2) Pair it with something. I think experts call this “association”. Most times you should do this in your head, unless it flatters the other person.
Here’s an example:
You meet Alice. Alice has blonde hair. Think about Alice in Wonderland, but don’t say it out loud because this person has probably dealt with Alice in Wonderland jokes their entire life.
Maybe Alice has dark hair. So you think about the Johnny Depp version of Alice in Wonderland (for me, this is the ‘dark version’). I wouldn’t say this out loud.
If you have an intriguing story about their name, it might be good to tell aloud. I only encourage this if it’s going to make the person feel good.
Here’s an example for when it’s appropriate to say the association out loud:
You meet a Harold.
You say, "My grandpa, nephew, and best friend are all named Harold and the one thing they have in common is how lovely they are. You’re one more Harold to add to the list!"
The success of this tactic is heavily based on delivery and being genuine. It should be true and you should mean it.
3) If you’re at an event where lots of people are on stage and you’d like to talk to them or send them a follow-up message, take a photo of them.
I was at a pitch event recently where eight people got on stage and pitched their business idea. I wanted to get an interview with them after and if I wasn’t able to, I would message them after the event.
For each person, I took their photo using a social app and would write a brief caption on the photo with their name and business name, idea, or industry. I saved the photo without posting so I could refer back to it later. This way I have an image of their face to pair with their name.
4) Add the person on LinkedIn (or Facebook if you really hit it off) so you can look at their face and find out more about their interests and passions.
Getting someone’s name right is especially important if it’s written. If someone’s name is LITERALLY right there in their email address or on the profile you’re messaging them on…. there is no excuse.
You won’t always remember names. I sure don’t. We’re both human after all. But at least put in the effort.