You've accompanied your daughter to the opening of her first art show. When you return to her side with two glasses of punch, she's speaking to a gentleman who's just bought a picture. He looks up. Your eyes meet. "Jesse, I didn't know you had such a talented daughter," he says. He's the merchant you've been trying to land for months. Perfect, right?
But you can't remember his name.
You shake his hand and say, "Good to see you. ... I didn't know you were an art lover." He gives you the look. He knows. Your heart is in your shoes as he turns his attention back to your daughter, dismissing you as the insincere salesman you never want to be.
Many of us claim to be terrible with names. Does that excuse our lapses?
Here's the good news. You can improve - without the benefit of seminars or self help books. For a small investment of time, you can overcome this stumbling block to winning people over.
Enter a meeting determined to remember everyone's name. Commit to observe and listen completely. If you're thinking of what products a client may need during an introduction, you're sunk.
Remembering names takes commitment and practice. You can only remember what you observe or really hear. If you give something your full attention, you're more likely to remember it. When you're tired or distracted you can read words in a book but be unable to absorb their message.
Likewise, if you're listening while thinking about something else, you're hearing words but not taking in their full meaning.
At a party, you may think you're never going to see half of the people in the room again, and you can only remember so many names, so why not focus on prospective customers?
The problem with this is that it encourages bad habits and sets an arbitrary limitation on your potential. And you may be wrong about who the best prospects are.
Here are some easy tricks to practice with every new person you meet:
Repeating someone's name ensures you've heard it correctly and that you are not mispronouncing it. It also gives the name more of a foothold in your mind. Have you ever taken notes or made a shopping list, then misplaced the notes or list?
Chances are you remembered much of it because you wrote it down. The same is true for what you verbalize. Silently reiterating a name isn't as effective as saying it aloud. But if your merchant contact takes a call during your meeting, you can mentally review the name as many times as you like, and this will help reinforce your memory.
Of course, all is lost if you remember a name but not the face it belongs to. This goes back to observation. Make note of a new acquaintance's unique attributes to make the mental link between the person and the name.
Also, many people will have the same names as acquaintances or famous people with whom you can associate them. If not, notice a physical characteristic you can connect to a name. Bill Lancaster may possess a large upper lip (a bill) and be lanky. Or conjure your own image. Picture Jeff Steele, for example, welding steel with a name patch on his coveralls that says "Jeff."
Here are some other examples of how this can be done:
As soon as you can, write down the names of people you've just met - several times. Next to each name, jot down something interesting you're sure to remember about the person's appearance or remarks made when you met.
Practice on everyone. Get the whole office to play the name game. Every day when your coworkers come in, have them introduce themselves with new names. See who can remember them the next day.
If it's all about who you know in this world, dare to know people's names - backwards and forwards and three weeks later.
Your skill in remembering names will replace awkward pauses or tired excuses, and you'll make lasting positive impressions.
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