My Dad was somewhat of a savant. The fact that he could be counted on to count everything always amazed me. Just like Dustin Hoffman’s iconic “Rainman,” my Dad memorized statistics.
What was more amazing was his ability to remember names. I wish I would have asked him how he managed that, and more importantly, I would love to understand why he made the effort. Regardless, I channel him every time I meet someone new.
According to Dale Carnegie, author of How To Win Friends And Influence People, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Obviously, we want to believe we matter. The fact that someone remembers my name is a boost to my self-esteem. It’s also a sign that someone respects and values me, at least in the moment, which makes me happy. Delivering self-esteem, respect, value, and happiness are huge returns on the investment of taking the time to memorize someone’s name.
Calling someone by name is also the easiest and best way to get that person’s attention. If you’re out to breakfast and you need a coffee refill, waving and shouting “Waitress” isn’t likely going to get you the quickest response. It’s simply courteous to refer to your server by her name instead of by her job title. It’s also a sign of respect. This is true in any situation, from customer service at the grocery store to medical staff in the hospital.
Regardless of whether you’re at a networking event or at Target, making the effort to address someone by name can yield a myriad of benefits. Many a time when my Dad got a free upgrade to First Class on Eastern Airlines, he’d say that Cindy at LAX took good care of him. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that you start your name-memorizing journey with an ulterior motive, but happy coincidence?
There are many tricks on how to memorize names. We’ve all heard the rule of saying the name out loud three times. Another tip is to create an alliterative association in your mind (i.e., “Nancy is Nice” or “Howard is Hilarious”). Some experts even suggest that you ask the person to spell his or her name, and hopefully the person’s name won’t turn out to be Mary or Tom.
The most important trick, however, is to listen when you’re meeting someone new. And if you’re like me, you might have that moment of panic after you’ve been introduced: “Oh no! What was her name? She just said it and I’ve already forgotten!” The solution? Ask again. Believe me, if you have to admit out loud that you didn’t pay enough attention the first time, you will for sure when she repeats it.
I often smile in self-satisfaction when somebody says, “Oh yes, Nancy Gabriel, the Mediator.” And I have an even bigger smile when somebody tells me “I wish I could remember names as well as you do.”