January 29, 2024

How Remembering Names Can Make People Feel Valued

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Posted by Sharmarke Hujale

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4 min read

What belongs to you, but other people use it more than you?

Many of you have probably heard the above-mentioned riddle before, or it might be your first time hearing it.

But the answer to the riddle is: your name.

Your name is a part of your identity. And during your lifetime, the only time you mention your own name is when people ask about it. But most of the time, it’s the other way around.

Back in 2016, I took business economics classes as I needed them to get into an AP program. Every time I’d raise my hand during class to answer a question, the teacher always addressed me with “yes, you” instead of saying my name.

If it happened once, I’d understand. But it was like that for the whole half-year I was there. As a result, I became disengaged in the classroom.

Why bother putting in the effort when you don’t feel like you matter?

It might seem trivial on the surface. But it becomes a big deal when a teacher doesn’t mention your name.

You carry this feeling that you’re not important enough for them to be remembered, even if it’s for a short period.

It’s human nature. When our name is remembered, we feel valued. When not, we feel unnoticed and unimportant.

Where does it stem from?

According to Dr. Gary Small, the most common reason people forget someone’s name is that we don’t pay attention to it when first introduced.

When we pay attention to a person’s name, it communicates to them that we care. That we’re genuinely interested in them, and that they matter.

Or as Dale Carnegie beautifully puts it: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Imagine these two scenarios at a workplace between a manager and his subordinate.

“Hey, you… Uhm, can you quickly fix this today? We’ve got a deadline, and I’ve got a lot on my plate already.”

Or.

“Hey, Mark. How are you? Would you help me with some work today? There’s a deadline coming, and I’ve got a lot on my plate already. Are you up for it?”

Notice the difference? How would it make you feel if your name was not mentioned?

If you struggle to remember names, here are some tips for you to use and implement starting today.

Repetition makes the master

It’s helpful to mention the person’s name at the beginning of a conversation when first introduced.

When they say their name after you’ve asked them about it, you reply with: “It’s nice to meet you, Mark.”

When parting ways at the end of a conversation you can also mention their name with: “It was nice talking to you, Mark. Have a nice evening. See you around.”

Repetitions make it easier to remember and get stored in your memory better.

Make association

Dr. Gary Small suggests using three basic memory skills that he calls L.S.C — LOOK, SNAP, CONNECT for effectively remembering names. ‘

LOOK — Take the time to focus on the name of the person.
SNAP — Create mental images of the name and the face of the person.
CONNECT — Make a connection with the name and the face with additional images, so that information can be retrieved later.

The more exaggerated the mental images stand out in your mind, the easier it becomes to remember a name. Here’s an example of how Dr. Gary Small does it:

When I meet Mr. Siegel, I think of a seagull, and I see a couple of cats playing together to help me remember Mrs. Katz. When I meet a Bill for the first time, I might see a dollar bill.

Spell it out

You will meet names that are long and difficult to pronounce at the beginning.

I know that for a fact since I carry a long name myself.

The best thing you can do is to politely tell the person to spell it out for them. No harm is done. It shows you care, and that you want to get it right.

I’m always happy when people ask me to spell out my name. It comes from a good place. No one wants to be rude.

A conscious decision

At the end of the day, it boils down to one thing — do we care enough about the people that we meet?

The notion of forgetting names leads us to if it’s even worth remembering it in the first place.

If you meet new people, and you treat them as just another random John or Jane Doe — the likelihood of you forgetting their name is pretty big.

As the author Keith Ferrazzi said: “If you make a conscious decision that you are going to remember names,” he explains, “because you care about the people you meet, you will immediately become much better at doing it!”

We can always do better.

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