I’m willing to bet you’ve found yourself in a situation where you’ve met someone for the first time, and minutes later realized you couldn’t guess their name if you had a thousand chances.  Whether it’s a networking event, a business meeting, or a social event, forgetting someone’s name can lead to an embarrassing encounter.  Especially if you take a gamble and end up calling the person by the wrong name.  Or, more likely, you need to refer to the individual during a conversation, and you dance awkwardly around stating their moniker, giving the signal to everyone listening that you don’t remember the person’s name.  We’ve all found ourselves in this trap!

Why is remembering a name important?  Quite honestly, you feel important when someone remembers your name.  You’re more likely to feel engaged and respected in a conversation when someone uses your name.  “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language,” –  Dale Carnegie from How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Why do we fail to remember people’s name immediately after they introduce themselves to us?  For myself, I tend to fall victim to the following two mistakes.  First, it’s likely I’m too focused on making a good impression with my introduction, handshake, eye contact, or conversation opener.  I’m consumed by thinking about what I’m going to say or how I’m going to react.  Therefore, I’m not listening or paying attention, and their name bounces off my brain like a tennis ball thrown against a brick wall.  Or, second, I might have several other thoughts or people on my mind, and frankly I’m just not interested in who I’m meeting.  Both circumstances show that I’m overly focused on myself and my needs, as opposed to slowing down and just simply listening.

As the result of many trials and errors, I’ve developed a simple habit that has radically improved my ability to remember the names of the people I meet.   Recite, repeat, and repeat.  You can utilize this method too, and I promise, it’s really simple.

First, recite.  When you meet someone, make it a habit to repeat their name back to them immediately.  For instance, “It’s nice to meet you Michael.” This habit forces you to listen for their name, as opposed to strictly focusing on your response and reaction.  Second, repeat.  After you introduce yourself, immediately use their name in a question or a statement.  “Michael, how do you know the host of this event?”  or, “Michael, tell me a little about yourself.” Finally, repeat again.  Introduce them to someone else, which once again forces you to use their name in a sentence.  “Hey Ashley, have you met Michael yet?”  or, perhaps find another way to use their name in a statement.  “Michael, can I get you something to drink?”  Obviously, you don’t want to come across like a socially awkward robot stating Michael’s name over and over with each sentence you speak throughout your entire conversation, but the three repetitions will usually engrave a name in your memory.

Recite, repeat, and repeat.  Problem solved.