June 3, 2021

Why Remembering Names Is Important to Make People Feel Mattered

Posted by Sharmarke Hujale

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

Many of you have probably heard about the above-mentioned riddle. Or perhaps, it’s your first time hearing it. The simple answer to the riddle is: your name. Our name is part of our identity. During the lifespan of a human being, we only mention our own name when people ask us about it. But most of the time, it’s the other way around.

What’s the significance of remembering someone’s name? What effect does it have? How did it make you feel when someone remembered your name?

Perhaps it was your teacher when you were called upon, you were addressed with your name instead of a “yes, you” when you raised your hand in class.

It seems trivial, but it’s a big deal. When you have a teacher that doesn’t mention your name. You carry this feeling that you’re not important to them for you to be remembered.

A glance at the past

Back in 2016, I took business economics classes as I needed them to get into an AP program. And I remembered it vividly, I had a teacher when I raised my hand in class to answer a question—he would address me with “yes, you”.

As a result, I became disengaged in the classroom. Because why bother putting in the effort when you don’t feel like you matter?

Every single time. For the whole half-year.

I believe that it’s a human tendency. We know the feeling when someone remembers our name as opposed to not remembering it all. When our name is remembered we feel valued. When not, unnoticed, and unimportant.

Where it stems from

According to an article written by psychiatrist Dr. Gary Small in Psychology Today, the common reason for people to get 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 are genuinely interested in them, and that they matter. Or as the American writer and lecturer Dale Carnegie 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 have a deadline, and I have a lot on my plate already. Are you up for it?” 

Here is the other scenario.

“Hello, Sharmarke. How are you doing? Can you help me with some work today? There’s a deadline coming, and I have a lot on my plate already. Are you up for it?

Do you sense the difference? It feels different when your name is mentioned. You feel you’re important when your name is remembered. We don’t feel like a vestige where we disappear to oblivion. It’s not to say that people are evil for not remembering names, but I believe we can do better.

If you’re one of those people who has a hard time remembering names, I will share tricks and techniques you can use and implement starting from today.

Repetition makes the master

At the beginning of a conversation, it is helpful to mention the person’s name when first introduced. When they say their name after you have asked them about it, you reply with “it’s nice to meet you, Chris.”

Also, at the end of the conversation when parting ways, you can also mention the person’s name with “it was nice talking to you, Chris. Have a nice evening.”

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

Make association

Psychiatrist Dr. Gary Small suggests using three basic memory skills that he calls for 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 the mind; it becomes much easier to remember the name. Dr. Gary Small gives an example of how a mental image can help in remembering names.

“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

At times, we will meet names that are long and difficult to pronounce in the beginning. I know that for a fact since I carry a long name that’s unusual.

The best thing to do is to politely tell the person to spell it out for them. No harm is done, it shows that they care. I’m always happy when people ask me to spell out my name. It shows that they care and don’t want to be rude.

A conscious decision

In the end, it boils down to one thing—do we care enough about the people we meet?

The notion of not remembering names leads us to if it’s even worth remembering in the first place. If we meet new people, and we treat them as just a random John Doe—then the likelihood of us forgetting names is bigger.

Author Keith Ferrazzi puts it beautifully when he advises on remembering names.

"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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