According to self-help guru Dale Carnegie, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” So, that seems to indicate that one of the best ways to make a good first impression is to remember people’s names. But for most of us, that’s easier said than done. You meet some new people when you are at church or at a social event or when you are volunteering. You know they told you their names. But when you see them two weeks later, you’ve got nothing. You can’t run around the rest of your life calling every person you meet, “Hey, you.”
Good salespeople and politicians are the best at this whole name-remembering process. And most of them have their own special tricks for putting all those faces together with the names. Let’s examine some tips I’ve collected over the years from those good salespeople and politicians to see how they might save us from frustration and embarrassment.
First, concentrate. Don’t blame your inability to remember names on your bad memory. When you meet someone for the first time, give your full attention. If you’re not paying attention, that name will go in one ear and out the other, and you’ll end up running into that nameless person again at your next event.
Repeating his or her name does help, as well. Use that name immediately. Then repeat it to yourself. Write the person’s name down, or, better yet, snag his or her business card.
Try to make an association between your new acquaintance and someone else in your life. Does that guy you just met look like your cousin Jim? The association could be: Tim, the twin of Cousin Jim.
A side kick can help you out at your next social event. When I take my husband to large gatherings, I always tell him, if I don’t introduce him to someone, it’s because I don’t remember his or her name. It’s my husband’s job as a good sidekick to introduce himself. Then I get the name, too! And I do listen carefully that time around.
Here’s one trick I’ve used which can totally backfire. I’m telling you so you don’t use it! If I can’t remember someone’s last name, I ask the person to spell it for me. Here’s where you can get into trouble. A few times when I’ve used that old spelling ruse, it turned out the person’s last name was Smith or Green. Nope. Not fooling anyone with that trick.
Just keep in mind that when you remember someone’s name, it shows that you value this new acquaintance. But to help you out, I always wear my chamber name tag.
Lynne Conlan is Executive Director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce. Call her at 813-634-5111, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.