HR Specialist

Remembering Names and What to Do When You Forget

In 1 on November 12, 2009 at 11:55 am

Remembering names is a challenge for many; therefore, most of us need to work a bit harder at being more proficient. Most people tend to forget names because, typically, we are thinking about what we are going to say, rather than listening and concentrating.

Try this exercise: As soon as someone makes an introduction, either a self-introduction or paving the way for another, use the person’s name immediately and say, “Dr. Doyle. It is a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Doyle.” Do this with each person you meet.

Next, look closely at this individual. Make an association, perhaps with another person you may know with the same name. Then, make a visual association; visualize him or her as the person with the white teeth or who wears pearls. Ask him to say or pronounce his name again, particularly if he has a challenging or unusual name. In a business situation, ask for a business card. Look at the card, then back at the individual and make another visual association with the individual and his name. Finally, say the person’s name again and use it frequently in conversation, which will also make him feel special.

People like to hear the sound of their own names. Think about it — when we hear our name, we perk up, right? You are also sending a message to this individual that you care enough to remember his name, which is a positive reflection on you, personally and professionally. The business tie-in is, what else do you take the time for, go to the trouble of, make the effort to learn about (in advance)? Bottom-line: I trust you; I want to do business with you; I want you to represent my firm.

What to do when you forget a name?

 Here are seven steps to take when you forget someone’s name.

1. Confess
“What’s your name again?” would not be appropriate. Try something like, “I am so sorry, I have completely blanked on your name.” This said, with sincerity, is appropriate and speaks volumes about you while also demonstrating your genuine interest in knowing who she is and remembering  her. As always, it is not what you say, but how you say it.

2. Ask  ‘What is your full name?’
The person will respond saying his first and last name. At which point you might say, “Yes, I knew it was ‘Bill,’ but ‘Bill Flynn'”; now you have both.

3. Go to a respected third party
Ask, “What is the name of the woman in the blue dress?” You may then approach her, greet her by name and be a hero, suggesting you remembered her name.

4. Ask for a business card or calling card.
Take this opportunity to make yet another visual association.

5. Ask him to spell his name.
Be careful here. He could say, “J-O-N-E-S. In other words, exactly the way it sounds.” This can happen from time to time. It’s OK. Others understand and appreciate your effort in trying to know their name.

6. Introduce yourself.
Approach the other person and say your name, first and last. In business, we should all be conditioned so that when we hear another person say her name, we respond by saying our name, slowly and clearly, so it can be understood and remembered. 

7. The  ‘setup’
Sending over a trusted friend, colleague or spouse to introduce himself so the individual in question will respond by saying his name is frequently done and is effective. The person who designed this “setup” is then free to confidently approach the person, calling him by name.

Finally, knowing that most of us are challenged remembering names, it is everyone’s responsibility to be aware of this situation. Recognize the opportunity to help others when it comes to remembering names and using them for introductions and in conversation, which makes others feel valued and special. Everyone’s help and participation in making the name game seamless is not only appropriate, but required in order to be an active participant at any event. It will go a long way in terms of being noticed and appreciated.

Faux pas
Be sure to avoid these common faux pas when remembering someone’s name.

1. Assuming the familiar
Calling someone by her first name without being invited can be detrimental. Err on the side of being more conservative and ask, “How do you prefer to be addressed?” It is an expression and a gesture — always acceptable and appreciated and never wrong.

2. Assuming that ‘Suzanne Smith’ prefers to be called ‘Suzie’ or that ‘Cristiana Jones’ prefers to be called  ‘Christy.’
Once again, “How do you prefer to be addressed?” helps you to earn the right to advance and learn that Elizabeth Jones prefers to be called “Lizzy” or Dr. Jones.


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