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The Name Game


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Article on business issues, protocol, and best practices for The Monitor

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The Name Game

  1. 1. MONITOR ARTICLE 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 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 do so. • 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
  2. 2. 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 uses this acronym: 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 meeting people. 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 name itself. 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.
  3. 3. 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? 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, offers these tricks to remembering names. • Excuse me are you famous? – If you meet someone with a similar name to someone famous “associate” that person to that name. • 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