Remember People’s Names if You Want to Make an Impact

I’m working my way through Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Pick up a copy today and read along with me!

“Sorry, what was your name again? I’m terrible with names.” It’s a common line. I’ve used it. You’ve probably used it. But is it true? Are we really terrible with names, or have we just decided to focus our short term memory on other details?

Principle 3: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

This is one of those truths that we don’t like to hear, because it makes us feel pretty self-centered. Does it make me a bad person because I didn’t care what your name was?

But I don’t think it make you selfish to feel strongly motivated to reward a person who recognizes, remembers, and uses your name. This is the very start of intimacy.

It’s common to hear a person’s first name upon greeting and, after a brief conversation, to casually ask a second time for their name as you depart. We didn’t prioritize their name, but focused instead on what value they offered to us. Then, if enough value was offered to warrant another conversation later, we might recognize we don’t recall their name and ask for it in an attempt to preserve the memory.

What does it say about us that we’re focused on what the person has to offer rather than who the person is? Is that only a negative? Or is it a reasonable approach given how many pieces of new information we encounter each day and the obvious fact that we need to prioritize remembering the pieces that might be useful later?

Give yourself a pass for historical miscues like forgetting people’s names, but recognize that this is a new day and you have the opportunity to significantly improve your situation by making little course corrections like this one.

  1. Listen for their name
  2. Ask how to spell it if it’s not obvious
  3. Repeat their name several times during the conversation
  4. Address them by name when you say goodbye

What wonders might we experience if we made people feel important!

We should be aware of the magic contained in a name, and realize this single item is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing, and nobody else. The name sets the individual apart. It makes him or her unique among all others.

Dale Carnegie

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