One of the greatest interpersonal skills a person can master is the ability to learn and use the names of others. For years now, I’ve trained volunteers and staff to learn a person’s name and use it often to gain a greater chance to influence them for good.
You may say you’re not good at remembering names. You may hate having to wear name tags at an event. But you cannot deny how good it feels when someone remembers and calls you by your name.
The Sweetest Sound
The sweetest sound in any person’s ears is the sound of his/her name.
I remember when we started a city-wide youth ministry out of the church I pastored. I told the students that if they would introduce themselves to me, I would work hard to remember their names.
I met a girl one week named Rachel. It was just a quick introduction and she was more interested in joining her friends in the game room. She was attending for the first time and I said I hoped she’d come again.
When she showed up the next week, I greeted her by name when she came through the front door. Her response was almost embarrassing. She stopped, looked at me with unbelief, and shouted, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! You remembered my name!”
Not everyone may react to the same extent, but it’s generally a big deal, just the same.
Why Remembering A Name Means So Much
When you take the time to remember a person’s name, it communicates how much you value them.
Most people go through life without much recognition. When another remembers your name, it says you’re worth remembering. It says they think of you as more than a number, more than just someone who is useful to them.
Everyone wants to belong. To be valued. To be known. It was the heart of the TV series, Cheers. “You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”
You will never want for good friends, great relationships—business and personal—if you show respect and value by remembering and using another person’s name.
5 Tips For Learning A Person’s Name
Just like managing money and time, some may be more adept at learning names than others. But everyone can get better by working at it.
Without getting into complicated—no matter how helpful—techniques, here are a few basics.
- Learn it correctly the first time. If I hear a person’s name incorrectly when introduced, I have a hard time unlearning it. So when meeting someone, ask to repeat or even spell their name if necessary.
Use it often in conversation. Immediately after learning a person’s name, use it! “Nice to meet you, Tom!” Then keep using it as often as you can. “So, Tom, tell me a bit about yourself.” The more you can use their name, the more embedded it becomes in your memory.
Write it down asap. Once you end the conversation, make a note of the person’s name. Create a new contact or just keep a running list.
Review your list regularly. My wife has kept a simple list for years and referred to weekly. Even though she says she isn’t naturally good with names, she often runs circles around me though remembering names has been easy for me. This is particularly helpful when you’re returning to a location where you know you’re going to see a person again.
Don’t be afraid to ask again if necessary. You may still not remember right away when you meet a person a second time. “I’m so sorry—please refresh my memory and remind me of your name again?” There’s no shame in having to ask again. In fact, it acknowledges you do remember meeting and that you do really want to get their name right.
Whether remembering names comes easy for you or not, do what it takes for you to get better at it. Great relationships begin by learning a person’s name.
Learn a person’s name and use it often.
Question: What helps you remember a person's name? Share your answer in the comments below.