Meeting countless people each day can make it hard to keep names straight. You’ll be amazed at how well this works.
“I’m not good with names.”
How many times have you heard it? At parties, workplaces, classrooms. It’s said boldly, without apology, or with false self-reproach and a knowing smile.
It’s almost part our introduction. “Hi, my name is Andrew. Oh, I’m not good with names, so don’t be offended when I don’t remember yours.”
Or maybe it’s, “I’m not good with names, so don’t take it personally when I don’t bother learning yours.”
For so long we’ve awkwardly had to ask at second and third meetings for people to repeat their names. If only there was a way to remember them.
What if I told you I had the secret? The magic bullet, the ‘one weird trick’ to remembering people’s names.
Are you ready for it? Here it is: try.
I’ll let you read that again. Try.
As soon as we say ‘I’m not good with names’ we’re giving ourselves a free pass to not try. Why do we do this? Why do we hold back from making an effort to remember a new person’s name? Does it really take that much mental effort? What do you have to lose?
General (ret) Tom Lawson, former Chief of Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces, was Commandant of the Royal Military College during my last two years of study. He made a real impression on me for a number of reasons, but one that really stuck me is that he remembers everyone. It’s uncanny.
My wife (then girlfriend) met him once during a social occasion we attended together. Months later Jen and I were walking downtown and we crossed paths with Gen Lawson and his wife. I gave my best, “Good day, sir!” as we approached. He greeted Jen and I by name.
As a senior cadet I had met him numerous times by this point, but it was the fact that he remembered my girlfriends name that really struck me. It’s not an innate talent. It’s effort.
As a leader who meets so many people the ability to make each one feel like they’re worth remembering is an exceptional skill. It seems like such a simple thing, but my wife and I still talk about it. He remembered us both; it made us feel important. And who doesn’t want that?
Remembering people doesn’t have to be an impossible task. When being introduced repeat their name back to them ‘it’s nice to meet you …’, then repeat the person’s name in your head and learn something about them. Where they are from, where are you when you meet, etc. Making this association in your mind will help with your recall.
Because now you’ve made an effort, and cared enough to learn something about them.
Photo: Flickr/Orin Zebest
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