What’s in a name? 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 at church, while volunteering or at a social event. You know they’ve told you their names. But when you see them two week later, you’ve got nothing. You can’t run around the rest of your life calling every person you met “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 help 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 them your full attention. If you’re not paying attention, the names 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 their name down, or, better yet, snag their business card.
Try to make an association between them 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 sidekick 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 you 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 to them. Then I get that name, too. And I do listen carefully that time around.
Here’s one trick I’ve used that can totally backfire. I’m telling you so you don’t use it. If I can’t remember someone’s last name, I ask them to spell it for me. Here’s where you can get caught. The last time I used that old spelling ruse, it turned out their names were Smith and Green. Nope. Not fooling anyone with that trick.
Just keep in mind, that when you remember someone’s name, it shows them they are important to you. But in case we run into each other around town, I am not very thin-skinned. So if you call me “that chamber lady,” it’s close enough.
Lynne Conlan is executive director of the South Hillsborough Chamber of Commerce. Call her at 813-634-5111, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.