The Name Game
By Chelse Benham
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most
important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie, 1936 “How to Win Friends
and Influence People”
Immortality can be had in a name. Just think about that for a moment. We know
of people throughout history by their names first, and with their names come the
recollections of what they did. History is but a list of names. Perhaps, there is
nothing more important in the development of any relationship than the use of a
person’s name because it’s so personal. According to Graham Harvey,
professional speaker, “When we look back through the pages of history, it is easy
to see that one of the common characteristics of successful people was their
ability to remember people’s names.”
“I believe the first step in remembering people’s names is to firstly take a look at
your self-talk” Harvey said. “How often do you hear people say, ‘I can never
remember people’s names?’ Guess what, they never do. I am a great believer in
the self-fulfilling prophecies of self-talk.”
You are able to start remembering names once you change your attitude
towards doing so. By making the effort to commit the person’s name to memory
using a memory technique that best suits you, you can reduce the chance of
awkward meetings and reintroductions. The site www.bestforbusiness.com lists
practical and simple techniques:
• Use the newly introduced person’s name as quickly as possible. During
the introductions repeat their name back to them.
• Use the face association technique by examining the person’s face to find
some unusual feature and associate it to their name.
• Repetition method is the technique of repeating the name to yourself as
much as possible immediately after meeting a person.
• Ask the person to spell their name. If you have the chance to write it down
• Use substitution of words that sound similar to the name given. For
example, “Drapinski” may sound like “drop pin ski,” visualize dropping a
giant pin which punctures a hole in the ski.
• Give your business card and request one from the newly introduced
person and write on the back of their card when and where you met them.
“We always advise students to get an employer’s business card because this will
allow them to have the person’s information to send thank you letters and also to
follow up the meeting,” said Susie Chapa, coordinator of Cooperative Education
at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Career Placement Services Office. “It
is always very important to listen to the person when they say their name. It
indicates you are listening and makes the person feel good that you remember
their name. It is a very good business practice.”
A person’s name is an identifier and it contributes to the person’s image. Would
John Wayne have earned cinema reputation if he had used his real name Marion
Morrison? Jeff Korn, professional speaker, seminar leader and developer of the
“Good with Names” system, believes it’s important to remember names because
“Remembering names establishes rapport. Rapport gains you someone’s trust.
And trust gives you everything else - sales, friend and contacts.”
Another technique, the "Save" method provided by MemoryTalk.com uses this
S - Say the name three times in conversation.
A - Ask a question about the name (e.g.: how it is spelled) or about the person.
V - Visualize the person's prominent physical or personality feature.
E - End the conversation with the name.
Rachel Green, an award-winning communication specialist, professional speaker
and life-skills coach, provides helpful tips for remembering names.
1. Immediately use people’s names when they are introduced to you.
2. Use the name the person gives you. If I say, “Hi! I’m Rachel Green” then
say “Hi Rachel;” if I say, “This is Mrs. Green,” say, “Hello Mrs. Green.”
3. If you want to appear friendly and confident offer your name first upon
4. If you are stuck for a topic of conversation you may find talking about the
person’s name is an easy first step. Often people have some history
surrounding their name whether it is the meaning of their name, why
they were called that name or whether they like their name or not. It’s an
automatic conversation starter and it helps reinforce the memory of the
5. Don’t assume it is all right to abbreviate a person’s name. You may be
trying to be friendly, but they may not like the change and feel it
inappropriate of you to do so.
6. If you are given a business card read it right then to help you remember
the person’s name. This also shows respect towards that person.
7. Don’t automatically assume you know what a person likes to be called.
Politely extending the courtesy of asking what they like to be called is a
good professional tactic.
8. Make the commitment to remember names. Pay close attention to
names when they are given and try to associate the name to the person.
Interestingly, memory of names is found in the short-term memory area of the
brain. “We found that the main memory center, the hippocampus, is divided into
different sub regions,” said study author Susan Bookhiemer, an associate
professor in the Behavioral Sciences and Brain Mapping Center at the UCLA
School of Medicine. Bookheimer’s results appeared in the January 24, 2003
issue of “Science.” She said that an area of the hippocampus, called ammonis 3,
is responsible for learning new associations such as matching faces to names.
So how do you improve your memory for names? MindTools.com explains it this
way. Our brains evolved to code and interpret complex stimuli such as sounds,
tastes and touch. In order for the name to become more permanent build as
many associations to it.
Justin Becker, lifestyle correspondent at AskMen.com, offers these tricks to
• Excuse me are you famous? – If you meet someone with a
similar name to someone famous “associate” that person to that
• Johnny Mnemonic -- Mnemonic is another memory tool. The
Ancient Greeks taught memorization as part of their classical
education. The use of techniques or devices to assist the memory
is called mnemonics (pronounced “ne-mon-iks”). For example:
Never Eat Shredded Wheat= North, East, South, West.
• Ask and you shall receive -- Everyone forgets names, so if the
name of an acquaintance escapes you ask them again. Give
yourself a break.
• Pleasure to meet you – If you are with someone and you run into
a person, with whom you forgot their name, have the person you
are with introduce themselves first.
Being good with names may make the difference between getting noticed and
being overlooked. It may advance a new friendship and help you avoid awkward
reintroductions. Isn’t it worth having the personal touch when it comes to
interacting and getting to know other people? Addressing people by their names
takes a little time and practice, but most people skills do. It’s a matter of attitude
and how much value you place on name recall that will ultimately motivate you to
become better able to remember names.
“If you think you can, or think you can’t, either way you’re right.” – Henry Ford