In his basic writings, Freud explains that a person’s name is the single context of memory most apt to be forgotten. Guess Dale Carnegie forgot to mention that, huh?!
But we’ve all done it. We all do it. And we’ll continue to do it, unless we take the right steps to avoid this barrier to approachability.
Now, even if you have blanked out on a person’s name, and even if it happened at the worst possible moment, trust me, you don’t know how bad it can get. See, when I forget someone’s name, people act like it’s the ultimate sin. The gravest social no-no in the world! Hey Scott, do you remember my name? Come on Mr. Nametag, this should be easy for you right? Right? Come on!
People love to test me. And sometimes, it’s tough. After all, I speak to tens of thousands of people a year! I can’t remember all of them! So, in the event that I do forget a name – which happens every once in a while – not only does it offend them (more so than if I were someone else) but it makes me look like a hypocrite!
Therein lies the problem: wearing a nametag is great to help other people remember my name; but it does me no good when I blank out on theirs. So, people just expect me to always remember their names, simply from a reciprocal standpoint; which, if you think about it, isn’t really fair.
But, such is life. So, several years ago when I got tired of disappointing people when I forgot their names (even though I AM human), I made it a point to improve my name-remembering skills.
The first thing I did was change my attitude. I’d say to myself, “I am going to remember the name of everyone I meet today!” and “I am amazing at remembering names!”
Next, I read several books on the topic, the best of which was Remember Every Name Every Time.
But of course, reading and writing only got me so far. I had to start putting these ideas to work. For example, this week I spoke to an international student leadership group in Switzerland. 45 kids, 45 names, all of which were different. My goal was to memorize every one of their names by the second day. Here’s how I did it:
Quizzing: any time I saw any of the students from a distance, I recited their name in my head five times before approaching them.
Vocalizing: any time I talked with one of the students, I verbally used their name at least one time during the conversation.
Refreshers: any time I had a break, I’d find my way over to the students’ mailboxes. These were small envelopes on which their names were printed. I would peruse all 45 of the mailboxes while trying to picture the student in my mind.
Assistance: if I wasn’t sure of someone’s name, I’d ask one of the other staff members in private.
Reminders: if we sat in a circle, I’d take time at the beginning and end of the program to go around and say the person’s name to myself while looking at their face.
If that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right – it is! But it’s worth it. And in six years, if there’s one compliment I’ve received quite a lot, it’s in reference to my name remembering abilities. And while I don’t claim to remember every name every time, I will say that I’m pretty damn good.
Therefore, I give thanks to my nametag for FORCING me to develop this valuable skill. And I guess in end, if everyone knows my name, I may as well do whatever I can to remember theirs.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Do you remember the last time you forgot someone’s name?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
Study some name remembering techniques from this article. Try them out and see which ones work!
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Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag
Find out how in 7 days with the release of Scott’s forthcoming third book!
Check out www.hellomynameisscott.com for all the juicy details!