Master two things in life and you will go far.  That is what I always thought I would tell my first born.  The first is, Remembering People’s Names, the second was Playing The Guitar.  Of course the latter was more of an amusing comment about how insanely huge musicians had become in the late 90s.  I mean, Bono was making international public policy for Pete’s sake.  With the advent of digital media, no longer are we paying $20 for an entire CD to get that one song from a one hit wonder band.  If we were, The Lumineers would be gazillionaires!  That leaves me with just the one message to tell my son – Remember people’s names and you will go far in life.  (Kicking field goals was a close second).

This is not breaking news to anyone, but for some reason the vast majority of us simply will not do it.  We get caught up checking the person out, their eyes, their hair, their mouth, then we start wondering what they do for a living and if they are good looking or not, then it’s all over.  They have already said their name, we have shaken hands and we have no clue what they just said.  How disrespectful and rude!   The critical ingredient to a great first impression is remembering their damn name, (and of course making sure there isn’t any cilantro in your teeth).  We all know this, yet we still struggle and continue to send signals to new acquaintances that we could care less.  Yep, we are part of the problem, fueling the selfish society.

Here are some techniques to help you, become a compassionate and polite human being.

Suppose you meet Kate, Elliot, and Jeffrey at a party.  Shake Susie’s hand, look her in the eye, and then say her name.  While saying her name, either silently or aloud (just be respectful), repeat her name with your memory cue, “Kate Hudson” for example, then “Elliot Phone Home”, followed by “Jeffrey Dalhmer” (maybe keep this one to yourself, especially if the dude looks like he’s got a gimp in his basement).   This is a technique that is taught to the very best sales people, and they use it with every introduction and it works.

Commenting is another great method.  Say for instance you meet a woman named Jessica.  After she introduces herself, you might say “Oh, my sister’s name is Jessica”.  This one is foolproof.  It will absolutely guarantee you remember that person’s name the next time you see them.  Now if only we had 10-20 siblings then we wouldn’t have this problem, like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting – Marky, Ricky, Danny, Terry, Mikey, Davey, Timmy, Tommy, Joey, Robbie, Johny, and Brian !

Foreign names are especially challenging and sometimes you might not be able to come up with a mnemonic to help you remember.  I often ask people to spell it for me, that’s a huge help as then you can picture the name vs. sheer memorization.  You could also say, “That’s a tough one, do you have a nickname?”  Again, you might be doing the group a solid favor.  If all else fails, just change their name … Kidding!

Incidentally, calling someone by the wrong name, on purpose, can be incredibly useful at times.  It really gets under the skin of certain people.  But that’s another blog !

Remembering names is the simplest and easiest way to convey a positive image of yourself and its shocking that VERY FEW people do this.  The flipside is just downright rude and bad personal branding.  Go beyond the office and cocktail parties.  Do it with waiters, bartenders and doormen … especially doormen.  How about the mailman that stops by your home 6 days a week (soon to be 5) hand delivering your mail?   Perhaps his name is Tony – The Tony Express!

In other words, ENGAGE IN HUMAN INTERACTION.  Start by making a conscious effort to simply ask and remember the name of the person you are talking to or see on a regular basis. Stop looking at their cleavage, keep your eyes above the horizon and listen to what they are saying.  The benefits of this simple behavior come back to you tenfold.


Thanks For Reading!

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