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Repetition of name technique doesn’t work


It comes off as a cheesy sales trick rather than a genuine interest in remembering a person’s name.

The other day I was channel surfing and caught an interesting episode of Dr. Phil sharing Secrets to be Happier and Healthier.

The preamble for an upcoming segment was that Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief of Prevention ( magazine would share tips on how to remember people’s names.

Since one of my areas of expertise is training people how to mingle effectively — which includes remembering people’s names — I was glued to the television screen to hear if there was a “secret” to be learned.

After a long-anticipated return from commercial break, Vaccariello shared her advice — get ready for it, it’s a real secret — she recommended repeating the person’s name three times before the end of the conversation. Now I love Prevention magazine and think very highly of its editor-in-chief, but come on, we can do better than this 1980s-ish technique.

In my experience, it comes off as a cheesy sales trick rather than a genuine interest in remembering a person’s name.

A rule of thumb for using a person’s name in a conversation is to use it in the same capacity as you would in a dialogue with a friend. If it would sound unnatural to throw in a name-inclusive-phrase such as, “Well, Phil, you see . . .” when talking with your friend, then it will definitely sound contrived as you talk with a new contact.

Another reason this repetition technique doesn’t work is because most people forget the person’s name before it sinks in enough to be able to repeat it. How many times have you been introduced to someone and a few seconds into the conversation you’re thinking, I have absolutely no idea who this person is — the name has gone in one ear and out the other.

In my book, Business Cards to Business Relationships, I devote an entire chapter to the subject, but hopefully this will give you some cues to get off to a good start.

To really become an expert at remembering someone’s name, we first must understand why we forget them.

It’s estimated a person meets 1,000 new people for every year he or she is alive. When you do the math, it’s easy to see our brains are conditioned to think that any new introduction is just another formality of life that will result in a whole lot of in-one-ear-and-out-the-other-banter.

It’s not until our brain decides it wants to know who a person is that it will work to remember a person’s name. There needs to be a trigger so your brain determines that this person, and thus his or her name, is important information to bring to the conscious front.

One way to shift your brain’s attitude is to decide that every person you meet could be your next best friend or next biggest client. Then at least your brain will be open to solidifying information about your next introduction.

Unfortunately, an attitude adjustment is just the first in many steps to becoming good at remembering names.

The second is to clear your mind of all the clutter that keeps you from processing and retaining information in the present moment. How can you catch a person’s name if you’re worried about your overloaded to-do list or what you’re going to say next?