Have you ever been introduced to someone only to forget his or her name seconds later? You’re not alone; just look what happened to presenter Charlie Stayt when he seemed to momentarily forget his co-presenter Susanna Reid’s name live on the BBC news. His bumbled excuses make for awkward viewing and certainly don’t seem to go down too well with Susanna.
So, why does remembering somebody’s name make such a difference?
As Dale Carnegie, arguably the most acclaimed careers coach in history wrote back in 1936, ‘a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language’. Decades later, it’s the one piece of advice which still holds true. It’s the ticket to making a connection with someone in a few moments, the difference between him or her wanting to walk away or continue the conversation. That’s why salesmen always address customers by their first name. On a conscious level, you might think it invasive, but on an unconscious level, the moment you hear your name your engagement level shoots right up. In the world of networking, this knowledge can be a powerful tool. If you can remember someone’s name, especially after a single introduction, networking events will suddenly seem a lot easier. And it all starts with one little tip: having a genuine interest in others.
A psychology professor has asserted that there is no such thing as being naturally talented at remembering names but that the ability stems from being interested in others. Those who genuinely care about forming relationships and learning about other people are more likely to recall names. So, what does this mean for you? While you can no longer excuse yourself on the basis that you’re “bad with names”, you needn’t resign yourself to the fact that you can’t get better. Here are a few tips:
- Number one: Listen. How many times has someone been introducing himself or herself to you and rather than listen, you’ve been trying to think of what to say next? The next time you’re in this situation: listen, look out for the name and mentally log it.
- The best advice I ever received was to repeat the person’s name following the introduction. “Hi, I’m Susan”. “Nice to meet you, Susan. I’m Tanya”. The act of repeating the name aloud will further cement it in your memory.
- Don’t rely on name tags. These prevalent white stickers are evidence that you’re not alone in your toil, which can be reassuring. However, as Joyce Russell points out, if you rely on name tags, you’re not actually making an effort to learn names. The result? They’re in one ear and out the other in seconds.
- If you particularly struggle, then this is a useful tip proposed by Kristi Hedges. If you meet a Jessica and your aunt is called Jessica, make a connection. The next time you meet her, you’ll immediately think this person has the same name as my aunt.
- If the person’s name is less common and you don’t know anyone with that name, word association can help. Think “Henrietta likes hens”. The next time you and Henrietta cross paths, you’ll picture her carrying a hen and with that, you’ll recall her name.
Now for the golden question: can you remember the name of either of the BBC presenters mentioned in paragraph one? If you can, take advantage of this skill when networking. If not, you might want to have another look at those tips above!
 Kansas State University. “What’s your name again? Lack of interest, not brain’s ability, may be why we forget.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120620113027.htm (accessed November 27, 2014)