So Bad With Names

So Bad With Names

May 13, 2014

“Sorry.  I’m so bad with names.”

Chances are, you’ve heard this before; in fact, perhaps you’ve even said it before.  Respectfully, please eliminate this expression from your vernacular.

What message do you suppose, “Sorry.  I’m so bad with names” conveys?  To my mind, it is akin to saying, “Hmmm… you look familiar.  Yep, I’m pretty sure I’ve come across you before, but I don’t care enough about you to know even the most basic information about you… such as your name.”  Or, try this, “You’re just not important to me.”  Pretty lousy messaging, eh?

Please, please, train yourself to remember a name.  Your name is the most personal thing you own.  And, yet, you freely dole it out to anyone who will take it.  And, when the people to whom you have shared this precious gift respond by restating your name – and pronouncing it correctly – it feels GREAT!

So, do this…

  1. Restate the person’s name.  When someone tells you his/her name, restate it.  So, for example, if I say, “Hello, I’m Alana.”  You should respond, “Hi, Alana, nice to meet you!” or something similar.  It will help you to remember my name AND it will make me feel GREAT that you cared to receive it.
  2. Mnemonic Devices Can Help You Remember People’s Names

    Use mnemonic devices.  A mnemonic device is a pattern such as letters, ideas or associations that assists in remembering something.  So, sticking with my example, I have used the same mnemonic device to help people pronounce my name for as long as I can remember.  You can call me, “Alana Banana” or “Atlanta without the ‘Ts’.”  For me, these little word plays elicit a bit of a chuckle from those with whom I share them and I know that they help my contacts remember how to pronounce my somewhat unusual name.  Even if you have a run-of-the-mill, everyday common name, mnemonic devices can help you stand out from the crowd – choose rhyming words, favorite hobbies, acronyms or other associations to help people remember your name.  And, if a person you meet has a difficult to pronounce name and/or you simply want to work on remembering it, you might come up with a mnemonic device of your own for them (may want to keep it to yourself!).

  3. Categorize.  When you meet someone for the first time and he/she shares his/her name, if you know others with that same name, mentally place them in a category of all people with that name.  Or, if he/she tells you about their profession or a hobby or other identifying characteristic, do the same thing… for example, if you meet Ian who tells you he plays lacrosse, think of all other Ians you know and/or other lacrosse players and picture this new Ian as part of that group. 
  4. Fess up.  If, when all is said and done, you simply cannot remember a person’s name, own up to it and admit that you cannot remember his/her name.  You can say something like, “please forgive me.  I know we’ve met before and would be grateful if you would remind me of your name.”  Your contact will be grateful that you care to have his/her name.  And, whatever you do, under no circumstances should you say… “Sorry.  I’m so bad with names!”

So, how do you remember names?  Please share with the entire CLC community so we can all work on getting better at this elusive art!