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Why do we forget people’s names?


Why do we forget people’s names? This is a question many people often ask.

Many psychologists believe that the main reason we forget other people’s names is that we do not make it a priority. In our busy world and having so many things to think about, remembering someone’s name is not a focus for most of us. Instead, when we first meet someone, we have a lot to take in. We are more likely concerned about their appearance, the conversation and what we should say to them or wondering if we ourselves are making a good impression.

Today, we are not having to ‘flex’ our memory as often, as we rely more on the Internet. We have information at our fingertips and as a result, memorization is becoming a lost art.

However, remembering other people’s names is important on so many levels. One of the best ways to make an impression with someone that we have met for the first time, is to remember their name. You know how it feels when someone goes out of their way to remember your name, it makes you feel special and likely to make you pay closer attention to them and what they say.

Studies show that hearing our name, activates a part in our brain to make us pay attention. Influencers understand this and ensure they use people’s names and other personal information in conversations or presentations. This is deliberate as they know how important it is.

So, what can we do to remember people’s names when we are networking?

  • Firstly, think about what you say and do. Are your thoughts positive about your ability to remember names? If you are continually thinking and saying things like ‘I can never remember people’s names’ then that is exactly what will happen, you will not remember people’s names. When you hear yourself saying these things or thinking these thoughts, immediately replace these with ‘I enjoy remembering the names of people I meet because I care’.

You will be amazed at how this will help!

  • Use their name several times. As soon as you meet someone, try to use their name several times when speaking with them. It may feel a little forced or fake to start with, but it will be become more natural for you as time goes by. However, make sure you are not too repetitive or sounding too ‘salesy’. When you are saying goodbye, look them in the eye and say their name one last time to commit it to memory.

It is a good habit to use people’s names as often as possible as people really love hearing their own name being mentioned.

  • Ask for a business card. If you are in a business or networking meeting, and if it is appropriate, ask for a business card. This way you can see the word written which is a great help, especially if it is an unusual name. Reading the business name can also help to create a greater alignment with that person’s name.
  • Spell it out. Again, if it is an unusual name or one that may be difficult to pronounce, ask the person to spell out their name. This is especially helpful, for those who have a more visual memory, as this creates a mental picture of the person’s name.
  • Make an Association. As you meet someone, try to make an association with this person’s name with another familiar image. It could be a ‘play on words’ with the same letter or rhyming word or connections. For Example- ‘Bob was wearing a blue shirt’ or Jim was tall and slim- Slim Jim. You may also wish to associate the person’s name with someone else you already know.
  • Focus on the moment of introduction. Often, we are too busy worrying about the correct handshake or are over self-conscious and forget to focus on the name of the person.
  • Forget about you and focus on them. The foundation of great networking is to make others feel special. So, when you first meet someone, smile and make eye contact. When they say their name, repeat it back to them ‘naturally’ in conversation. For example, “Julie, it’s lovely to meet you.” This will certainly make them feel special and you will be on the way to building a sound business relationship.

So, be sure to relax, focus on the moment when you first meet someone and, have positive self-talk and thoughts about your ability to remember names.

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