Dale Carnegie once famously said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Think about this. When a receptionist or teacher remembers your name, it’s such a little thing, but it instantly makes you feel welcome in a space. You feel seen and acknowledged. As a result, you are more comfortable with being with that person who remembered your name.
Not remembering a name does the opposite, especially if it’s someone you’ve spent any amount of time with. By not remembering a name, it tells that person they don’t matter to you. The amount of impact your forgetfulness may cause is largely situational. Your cashier probably won’t care if you don’t use their name, the new friend you’ve seen a few times, definitely will.
Many people will say that they struggle to remember names because it’s simply the way they are. This is a common excuse, but not a permanent problem. You can get better at remembering names.
The trick to remembering names
There are many memory tools and aids that can help anyone improve their recall of facts and lists. For most of these, the tool works best for sorting abstract information into memorable chunks. Names tend to be harder to remember because they aren’t linked to anything but the person they belong to. If you don’t know or aren’t interested in the person, then your brain won’t bother with processing the name.
You can hack this system by creating interest for that person as you talk to them.
- Step one: You have to be paying attention. If you’re distracted by other thoughts, such as your to-do list, then your brain will automatically discard the name.
- Step two: Know your motivation for needing to remember the name. “I want to remember them because they have the keys to the supply closet,” or “I want to remember them because they also like painting miniatures.”
- Step three: Make a point to repeat the name as soon as possible. “It’s nice to meet you, John.”
- Step four: After the conversation has ended, make a note of the name where you can reference it, like in your phone’s contact list. Then, if you forget, you have it stowed safely.
With a little practice, and a greater focus on the person you’re meeting, you’ll become one of those people who tend to remember names easily, and the world will become that much of a nicer place. Huzzah!
The time a receptionist nearly made me cry, and not in a good way
Recently, my child needed to be referred to a specialist for a dental issue. When we arrived, we were right on time for our appointment and there was no one in the waiting room. I stood at the counter and told the receptionist we were there for an appointment for my child and supplied the name. Without looking at the schedule or consulting her computer, she asked me if I thought I was in the right place.
For me, that’s a BIG RED FLAG. While I don’t expect this woman to know my name, I do expect her to do her best to make me feel welcome and the first part of that is recognizing my name in the system.
The rest of the appointment went very well and both the doctor and the nurse were exceptionally kind. However, my first impression was that they didn’t want me there, simply because the receptionist didn’t recognize my name, or make an effort to immediately find it. I was actually relieved when she wasn’t there the next time I went.
Discussion Question: When has someone unexpected remembered your name?