What’s the first thing to know in any new relationship? The other person’s name, of course.
So why do so many of us have trouble putting names to faces? Do some people’s brains come wired with the skill? Not at all. They care. They know it’s important.
The secret is out: Everyone, from your boss to your assistant, needs to work at it.
The first and most important step: recognizing the strategic advantage of using people’s names when you’re talking to them.
Here’s a common strategy for remembering names, which you can fine tune to suit yourself.
Ask a question
If necessary, ask if you’re pronouncing the name correctly. The other person will appreciate that you care enough to get it right. If appropriate, ask for a business card so you can see the spelling—that’s another chance to etch the name deeper into your mind.
Now, resist the urge to launch right into your side of the conversation. Ask a question instead, and make mental notes about what your new acquaintance is saying while repeating the name silently to yourself.
Create a link or picture in your head
If the name is the same as someone’s you know, picture them standing together. When it comes to encoding memory, the more color and movement you can give the image and the sillier the better. Alliteration works well for some. Rhyming, too. Carrot-top Karen? Carin’ Karen? Dan from Detroit with the dimple?
End the conversation by repeating the name
Keep a record
As soon as practical, write down the name along with a few relevant attributes. If the person gave you a business card, you might jot a note or two on the card. Finally, back home, go over your notes before filing for future reference.
It takes commitment and effort to remember names. But it’s a skill anyone can master, and it gets easier with practice.