A long time ago in a previous leadership role I set myself a challenge. How many names did I really know, I mean really? My criteria were “Can I put a face to this name?”
As it turns out, I could. In a church with 1,200 names on the database, I knew 700-800 people. In the Church I lead now, after five years and many changes I think the numbers could be close to the same. Now, I tell not this story to brag. I mention it to demonstrate that when you are intentional and focused you can remember names. Dale Carnegie said that a person’s own name is the sweetest thing they can hear. That being true what a wonderful opportunity we have as leaders to learn these six secrets to remember a person’s name.
Have a process for when you FORGET their name
Counter intuitively this is the most important skill you can have that serves you remembering a person’s name. Develop a simple, humble and immediate process that asks that person to tell you their name.
I say this. “I’m so sorry, I should have remembered. Can you please remind me of your name again?”
They answer. With a huge smile and loads of enthusiasm. I say, “Thank you, please keep reminding me until when I see you and I greet you like my long lost best friend.”
I know your thinking ‘What about the person who jumps into your personal space and says “You don’t remember me do you?” When I’m caught out in these circumstances, I match their energy and say ‘I don’t, but you think I need to so that’s good enough for me. Can you help me out and remind me of your name again?”
Develop an interested & energetic introduction
Jim Collins got it right when he learnt the lesson that it were more important to be interested than interesting. I believe our introductions should be the same. Good introductions connect people, and great introductions elevate people. It’s worth your time and effort to learn the art of an interested (in them) introduction.
Phrases that help include:
- Hi, lovely to meet you, I’m Rohan…
- We haven’t meant yet; I’m Rohan, your name is…
- Great to have you here, my name is Rohan…
There is a plethora of ways to introduce yourself. Words aren’t my focus here; intent is. Your intent and mine must be orientated towards the person we are meeting. Out attention and energy needs to be focused on them, keep and maintain eye contact, listen and respond, ask interested questions.
Use their name in the next sentence you say
To keep the neural pathway fired up and focused use the person’s name in the next sentence, you say. This might include “So [name], what’s your connection to this event?” or “[name], I’m curious to know what your role is here…”
The point isn’t the question. The point is you discipline yourself to use THEIR name immediately. Keeping the focus on them. Being present to them, being generous with your time and attention. When you find yourself using their name regularly you increase the likelihood of it being locked in.
So without overdoing it, or being weird, try to use their name at appropriate times while you converse. It all serves to remind you and remember them.
During your conversation anchor information you learn to their name
If I had an Achilles heel with remembering names, this is it. I can often remember context, information, other friends they have and STILL not be able to lock in their name. Gets me so often. I find myself listing things I know about them and still can’t get to their name.
In fact, I did it real time. I met Corey and remembered where he was from, what he did, whom he knew that we both knew and then flew the white flag of name defeat and said “Just don’t have your name locked in, can you help me out.”
Introduce them to the next person that joins the conversation
This will continue to reinforce that you both know their name, and you are increasingly comfortable with using it in the conversation. It also allows you to embrace them and the new person joining the conversation and model how to create warm and energetic connections amongst new friends.
What you need to do is introduce yourself to the new member of the group and then immediately deflect the attention to the other people in the group. This immediately reinforces everyone’s names and includes the new person. It also creates more immediate rapport with everyone there. What you’ll notice is that connection and conversation continue with minimal interruption. A win for all!
Use their name in your goodbye
Again, the real key to this is being present to the other person rather than keep the attention focused back on you. When the conversation has reached a natural conclusion, you can excuse yourself and move on. Developing the art of a kind goodbye is as important as developing the art of an energetic introduction.
Something like this “Thanks for your time [name] I really appreciate it. I need to locate [name] if you’ll excuse me. Great to meet you.”
“[Name], I must head off now, thanks for your time, excellent to speak with you.”
Again, the text matters less than the intent. It matters less than using a person’s name as part of your farewell. It focuses you on them and reminds you whom you have met, where, why and what will stick for next time.
We are remembered by our exit, not our entrance. If we exit a conversation having lifted up that person affirmed that person and added value to that person, that is how you will be remembered by them. Using their name serves that experience.
Oh, if you see them next time and can’t remember their name, start with point one! Corey, you’re locked and loaded, thanks for the real time reminder!
#leadsmall – because when you do, big things can happen