How many times have all of us met someone who says, “I can’t remember names,” or “I’m just not good at names,” or something similar? I, for one, cannot fathom how many times I have heard this type of inane statement! When someone does not bother to learn my name it communicates volumes to me about that person’s unconcern for me as a person, disinterest in engaging in future interaction, and a general lack of respect. Although some people are better than others at remembering other people’s names, if a person belongs in the category of “not good at names,” there are many remedies to this forgetfulness. These remedies include: making eye contact with the person upon meeting, to really see what he or she looks like; asking the person to repeat his/her name to hear it a second time; saying the person’s name out loud upon being introduced or informed of his/her name; and, as a last resort, writing down the person’s name. My spouse and I recently moved into a new home, in a neighborhood comprised of people from many countries other than the U.S.A. We are meeting many people with names we have never heard before and we believe it is important to learn their names because we plan to live in the neighborhood for many years to come. I have found myself writing down the names of my new neighbors, then practicing their pronunciation until I get it right, so that the next time I see them, I can say “hello” to them by name. All it takes is a genuine interest in people, as opposed to a self centered orientation, and learning people’s names becomes relatively simple. People can usually accomplish goals that are important to them; learning people’s names (not to mention their correct pronunciation!) is a great way to establish rapport and maybe, make a new friend.
I once heard the story that Jimmy Carter, when running for the Presidency, studied memory techniques that enabled him to call all 535 members of Congress by name upon first meeting them. Apparently, this was a goal of importance to him. It is pretty impressive and most of could not come close to such a feat. However, with minimal effort, we can learn the names in small group settings by using other techniques. We make sure our employees, even those whose roles are mostly invisible to our clients, have business cards they give to the clients on mock jury research days. This is sort of a reverse memory technique to make it easy for our clients to call our team members by name by referencing the business card. When I attend a meeting involving a group of people, and we often are in meetings with large trial teams, I try to draw a seating map quickly with the names so that I can try to learn them during the meeting. I know I can’t rely on my memory to keep up with the names, as well as the details of the discussion, so notes become critical. And, when one deals with large numbers of people and faces, finding cues about a person can help with recall. It may seem a small detail, remembering names, but making the effort plays an important role in ensuring high levels of customer service, as well as being another common courtesy in life. Making no effort to remember a person’s name says, loudly, “I don’t care about you” or “You are not important to me.” I have attended many business/social events over the years for business development purposes. Some events have name tags, some do not. And, often, we see the same people over and over. If you can’t remember names, it is better to ask people their names than to ignore people out of embarrassment from not remembering. This comes more easily to some people than others. But, it is important, for business and life, to work on and refine your ability to remember and connect names and faces.