Imagine for a moment that you are standing at a cocktail party and a person walks across the room to say hello to you.
He arrives and, although the face is familiar, you have absolutely no idea who he is. The conversation starts rolling. This person is acting as if you’re long-lost buddies, but you’re at a loss for words — more specifically two words — a first and a last name.
Rather than focusing on the conversation, your mind starts racing, desperately trying to find a clue to this person’s name. Just then, before you’ve solved the mystery, your boss arrives and expects you to make an introduction. Now what do you do?
Or, imagine you’ve just been introduced and, as the conversation progresses, you realize you have absolutely no idea what the person’s name is despite being introduced a mere 30 seconds earlier.
We’ve all been there.
Forgetting names is a fact of life and it’s one that can cause a lot of anxiety.
It’s not easy to remember names, but mastering this skill will give you an advantage with people. Most importantly, winning the name game will increase your confidence, ultimately making it easier for you to live in the moment, focus on the conversation and create genuine connections.
One reason we forget names is because when we’re first introduced, the brain doesn’t realize it’s important information so it filters it. The words are just random facts that can clog an already over-active memory bank — thus we forget.
It’s not until we make a conscious decision to want to remember a person’s name that our brain clicks into high gear and we’ll be able to easily recall the information.
To master this skill, start by making the decision that every person you meet has the potential to be your next best friend. This will give your brain a reason to register the information.
Next, when you’re introduced, be sure to actually listen. Our minds are so busy worrying about the next intelligent thing to say, that we miss the most important information — the name of the person with whom we’re speaking.
As you meet a person, take a mental snapshot of his or her face and solidify the picture in your mind as you repeat the name to yourself. Taking an extra second of consciousness as you’re introduced will go a long way to anchoring the individual’s image, which will help you remember.
Next, make a point of thinking about people again after you’ve met. Replaying mental snapshots of new contacts after you leave an event will help solidify the images and names for future retrieval.
So often, we meet people once and don’t think about them until the next time we’re introduced. By increasing the number of times that you intentionally think about a person, you can increase the odds of remembering their name.
Another good habit is to look for clues that can lead you to people’s names:
Names tags are great — be sure to read them and include them in your mental snapshot.
In group conversations people will often use another’s name, giving you a chance to hear it again.
If you’re at an event that has a program book, check the names of committee members and try to match the faces with the names.
Reading business cards is also helpful.