Many years ago, I was invited to a networking event, and I was seated at a dinner table with three other women from a similar line of work. We spent the entire evening in very pleasant dinner conversation, and when we finished our meals, we parted ways with promises to meet again for future dinners.
Several weeks later, I met one of the women at a business function, and she looked at me blankly, as though we’d never met. I introduced myself again to her, but couldn’t find a hint of recollection in her face.
I don’t always remember names myself, but that experience showed me how important it is pay attention and learn the names of the people we meet.
Names are important because they are important to God. From Isaiah 43:1Now this is what the Lord says— the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.
This academic and ministry year, I’d like to make a true effort to remember the names of the people I meet. If you’d like to join me in this quest, try this:
Focus on the person speaking rather than think of what you’ll say next
The single most important memory tip I’ve heard is to concentrate on what the speaker is saying. Listen, really listen. Don’t let your mind wander to how you’ll respond or how you’ll introduce yourself.
Most psychologists and memory experts point out that one of the main reasons we forget someone’s name is that we’re not really focused on learning it in the first place. There’s too much else going on, and it’s vying for our attention.
Author Keith Ferrazzi’s first piece of advice for remembering names is to decide to care. “If you make a conscious decision that you are going to remember names,” he explains, “because you care about the people you meet, you will immediately become much better at doing it!”
If you learn by hearing, then repeating the name out loud may help you remember. If you are a visual learner like me, mentally spell the name to help visualize it.
Repeating the name before introducing yours is useful for two reasons: first, by repeating the name, we are learning by doing. Second, by postponing our own introduction, we eliminate a distraction so we can focus on the person in front of us.
Remember that people matter
The secret lies in that very brief period of time we stand face to face with another person—in fact, the most important person in your life at that moment. You see, that momentary encounter has been directed by God. He has arranged two lives so that they cross at His prescribed time—so you can be sure that the meeting is significant. So is the name! How you fit the name with the face—and cement both together in your memory bank—is of crucial importance.
Remind yourself at each introduction and handshake:
This person is important (because he or she is!).
God has arranged our meeting (because He has!).
It would be safe to say that people with remarkable memories developed them because of a driving need or desire. One of the keys that unlocks a person’s soul is the realization that you are interested enough to call him or her by name. Let that be your driving force as you make the concerted effort to remember someone’s name.
Remembering people is crucial if we want to reach people. I don’t want others to experience the neglect I experienced at that women’s networking event many years ago.
Do you struggle to remember names? What tips can you share to help others who struggle too?