These Super-Easy Tricks Will Help You Remember People’s Names

Dec 10, 2014 - Joe Matar
No matter where you are in your career, making a strong, positive impression will give you a strategic advantage in building key relationships with colleagues, potential employers, prospects and business partners. One of the best ways to make a great first impression is to remember someone’s name. Seems easy, right? But how many times have you met someone… and immediately forgotten their name moments later? You rack your brain and can’t remember something you learned 10 seconds before! You’re not alone. Even though this is a common problem, you could be sabotaging your business success, relationships and future. Forgetting someone’s name signals they weren’t memorable or that meeting them didn’t matter to you.

Why you should try to remember people’s names

Remembering names -- and then using them -- is a powerful strategy for setting yourself apart from almost everyone else. It will help you build important business relationships that will be a major component of your success. When you remember someone's name, they're flattered and impressed. You make them feel important and special because you took the time to notice them. People may also assume you remembered their name because something about them stood out to you. Remembering names also shows off your listening skills, builds rapport and trust and helps overcome the natural barriers that separate two strangers.

How to master the art of remembering names

So next time you meet someone new at a networking event, interview or even when you’re out with friends, here’s what you need to do to make sure their name doesn’t evaporate from your memory.
  • Focus on the moment of introduction. Make direct eye contact, smile and extend a firm, friendly handshake. (That means not limp or wimpy, but also not a vice grip.) Holding on for an extra second can help you focus on the critical moment of introduction and what’s about to come next: their name.
  • Listen for what’s next. Don't think about what you’re going to say. Listen for the name instead. Concentrate your complete attention, don’t look around, be present and listen. If you missed the name, simply say, "I missed your name," or "I didn't catch your name.” If their name is unusual or you're still not sure what they said, psychiatrist and memory expert Dr. Gary Small suggests you ask them to spell it.
  • If you forget, ask again. If you forget the name during the conversation, just ask the person again. Do the same if you see someone you recently met. Follow this advice from Jacqueline Moore, etiquette expert: “If you think you know someone's name, but are unsure, venture a guess: ‘Bill, right?’ Or you could simply apologize and say, ‘I'm sorry, I'm a little forgetful at the moment. Please remind me of your name.’ Don't worry, it happens to everyone.”
  • Repeat the name aloud. By repeating a name, you think it, say it and then hear it again. This gives you three more repetitions in addition to hearing the name the first time. Repetition is one of the keys to retention and recall. Using their name also personalizes the conversation as it reinforces your memory and ability to recall it the next time you see them. Ending the conversation with their name leaves a great first impression (since they know you still remember their name).
  • Create a memorable link. Your brain works best when you can link two facts together. Start with something you already know. Think of someone famous or a memorable image. Lock in on the first famous person or image that comes to mind. If you meet a man named George, you could associate that person with George Clooney or Curious George. Or if you learn he is from Alaska, you could think of him making an igloo or throwing snowballs.
  • Visualize their name. Picture the person’s name written across their forehead. This piece of advice is from Keith Ferrazzi, best-selling author and top networking expert: “Think that sounds dumb? It’s not. It was a trick used by Franklin Roosevelt and he amazed his staff with how well he remembered names.”
If you perform these mental operations all the time, your ability to recall people’s names will improve tremendously. (Click here to tweet this article.) Then when you see people you've met before and you use their names, they'll say, "I can't believe you remembered my name!" The rapport that comes from remembering someone's name gives people a reason to instantly like you. As a result, a great conversation will likely evolve, which sure beats small talk about the weather. A kickstart to a great conversation is just the start to endless professional possibilities! Jason is a life mastery coach helping men and women to create the business, relationships and life they love. His new book, Social Wealth, was a #1 bestseller on Amazon, and you can reach him at BeExtraordinary.tv