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A Brain Game to Knowing Names

- Written by Janika LeMaitre -


How does it feel when someone doesn’t remember your name or mispronounces your name? Does it feel like they don’t care or that they don’t respect you? Your given name is so personal; it’s the essence of who you are. And when you hear your name, your brain activity is stimulated. When someone can’t be bothered to say your name correctly, they overlook a key element of what it takes to earn respect.

Let’s flip the switch–if you want to earn respect from someone, learn how to say their name and do so correctly.

Remembering names and how to pronounce them is a highly desirable professional skill. Not the easiest skill if you’re the type of person who remembers faces, not names.

An easy technique for remembering someone’s name is to use it in conversation after you meet them. The simplest way to do this is to change your response upon meeting someone. Instead of saying, "Nice to meet you," you should say, "Nice to meet you, [person’s name]." The person who assists with your coffee or tea order every afternoon deserves to have their name said the way it should be said. As do: the mail delivery person, the individual who you drop off your dry-cleaning to, the concierge at the hotel you are staying at, the janitor at your place of work, your clients, customers, and the assistants to those people who work so hard to support them and you.

Make an effort to remember someone’s name, and you’ll see for yourself how this creates the first bridge of trust.

Then there's that scenario when you've completely blanked and forgotten their name! I’m sure that you’ve heard of 'brain games.' These are a series of exercises to keep your mind sharp. So when creating a habit of learning other people’s names, here are some excellent 'brain game' tips from Jim Kwik, an expert on memory training, on his Kwik Brain podcast called SUAVE:

S – Say it. Say the person’s name. The reason you say their name is to hear it twice; once said by them, the second time said by you.

U – Use their name but don’t abuse it. Say their name two to three times in the context of the conversation.

A – Ask questions:

  • When you meet someone and hear their name for the first time, repeat it back to them and ask if it’s pronounced correctly.

  • Ask the person how to spell their name.

  • Find out where their name is from and any other derivations to make it more memorable for you.

  • Determine who they might have been named after, and then it might just stick.

  • Inquire as to what their name means.

V – Visualize. Kwik quotes a Chinese proverb – What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand.

The visualization technique creates a connection from the person’s face by imagining something they’re holding, doing, or wearing and using this to build a name association. Kwik states that if you tend to remember what you see, try seeing what you want to remember. For example: If you meet a man named Mark, envision a checkmark on his forehead. Should you meet someone with the name Mary, picture her carrying two lambs under her arm. It makes you think of the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb.

E – End. When leaving, say goodbye and use that person’s name. This way they will remember you.

Remembering names is a learned skill; it's definitely worth your time practicing.

In the world of hospitality, knowing someone’s name can make or break their experience. At one of the hotels I worked for, I learned about a well-known doorman who worked at a luxury hotel in England whose reputation preceded him as the gentleman who knew everyone. He remembered the names and faces of every single person who walked through the door, which he held open for those guests.

Let’s say you visited the hotel five years prior and decided one day to stop by for dinner. Should he be on shift, then you would be greeted by your name. He was known as one of the highest-paid doormen and most highly sought after globally for his ability to recall all sorts of names. It’s because remembering someone and knowing their name creates familiarity. It builds a rapport with customers and clients and, again, is a very desirable professional skill to have.


About the author, Janika LeMaitre

Jan is a certified etiquette advisor, specializing in personal brand strategy. Her mission is to provide life-changing soft skills for business owners and industry trail-blazers to self-manage and evolve their reputation. Jan is certified with the Protocol School of Washington® and The British School of Excellence™. In addition, she is the board president of Women's Business Group Connects, and as a second-generation Rotarian, proudly serves as a board director at the Rotary Club of Weston & Wayland.

Download your complimentary copy of Jan's "Handling Gender-Neutral Pronouns With Style" quick guide here.


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