Eliminate ‘whatshername’ and ‘whatshisface,’ ‘dude’ and ‘hey, buddy’ from your vocabulary once and for all. The following techniques can help you remember the names of everyone you meet.
1. Be interested.
Many of us don’t even catch the other person’s name when they’re being introduced; we’re too focused on ourselves. It’s not always a vanity thing, it’s just we’re worried about what to say, how we look, etc. So the first step to remembering a name is to pay attention as you are introduced.
Unless the person has introduced himself to you, verify what he or she wishes to be called. Someone else may have introduced you who doesn’t know the person well. Asking what they prefer (e.g. “Jeff introduced you as Debbie, is that what you prefer to be called?”) will not only cement the name in your mind, but ensure you are using the name that pleases them. And simple courtesies go far.
3. Picture the name written across their forehead.
Franklin Roosevelt continually amazed his staff by remembering the names of nearly everyone he met. His secret? He used to imagine seeing the name written across the person’s forehead. This is a particularly powerful technique if you visualize the name written in your favorite color of Magic Marker.
4. Imagine writing the name.
To take step three even further, neural linguistic programming experts suggest getting a feel for what it would be like to write the name by moving your finger in micro-muscle movements as you are seeing the name and saying it to yourself.
5. Relate the name.
Try to associate a person’s name with a familiar image or famous person. For example, if a woman’s name is Jacqueline, picture her as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in a pink suit and pillbox hat. If a man’s name is Arnold, imagine him as the “Terminator” or striking a body-builder pose.
6. Use it frequently.
Try to use the name three or four times during your conversation. Use it when you first meet, when you ask a question and in your departure, (e.g., “Andrew, it was a pleasure talking to you. Maybe we’ll get a chance to chat again sometime.”)
What If You Forget?
Using these techniques will dramatically increase your ability to recall names, but it is inevitable that at one time or another you may slip up. If you do happen to run into someone whom you previously met and can’t remember their name, you have two options:
Look delighted to see them, lock eyes and extend a warm “Good to see you again,” and then find out their name from a friend or guest list later.
Or, with the same warmth, try the more direct:
“I remember you well, but your name has slipped my mind.”
Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for CareerBuilder.com.
Used with permission