Remember Everyone
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Remembering someone's name is one of the simplest, yet most powerful, ways of making a great impression.

It makes a person feel good to hear their own name, and they pay more attention. Research shows that hearing our name activates our brain, even when in a noisy room. Influential leaders will make it a point to use people's names, and even to mention personal details that they share in common. They do this intentionally because they know it matters. We feel better when people remember us, and worse when they don't. When you forget someone's name, they feel that they (and their business!) are not important to you.

It is no exaggeration that business deals often fail because someone failed to remember the right name at the right time. In the age of email and online relationships, being able to use someone's name in a face-to-face meeting can set you apart. We intuitively know this, and yet without conscious effort, name recall is an elusive skill. To make matters worse, this skill worsens after middle-age unless we train ourselves to remember.

Here are a few techniques that will dramatically increase your name recall:

  • Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

    Make it a point to repeat the new name during the conversation. "Hi, Mark, nice to meet you," or "How long have you been with Acme, Mark?" Don't overdo it, in a cheesy caricature of a salesman kind of way. Repetition is your most powerful tool, but people will be suspicious if you appear overly fond of their name. At the end of your conversation if you realize you have forgotten their name, don't be embarassed to ask for it again. Start with a compliment like "I've had so much fun talking with you, and I've completely forgotten your name."

    The Whos Who app has an option for spaced repetition. This is a cognitive phenomenon where people recall information better when studied a few times over a long period of time than when studied many times over a short period. Balota et al (2007). If crammed memories are not refreshed, they are likely to decay to nothing. If you enable reminders on the name that you enter, you will be sent a simple notification with the new name at increasingly long intervals. You can turn reminders off easily at any time.

  • Spell it Out

    We are visual creatures, and asking someone to spell their name helps create a mental picture of the name. When we are struggling to remember a name, we often remember that it started with an "M." It is also helpful to ask for a business card to strengthen the visual connection with the name. Better still, if the card contains a social media link that you have an account with, mention that you will add their connection there as well. This can casually deepen and reinforce a name.

    If you are in a situation where the name you are trying to remember is in your contacts or LinkedIn, Whos Who can import the photo and data for you. You can also add photos from your camera roll.

  • Make a Story

    Personal details such as hobbies or children's names can assist in memory recall. Our memories are more like stories than items in a spreadsheet, and associating interesting tidbits with the name will actually help in recalling it. It is also useful to record when and where you met, not only because that data could be useful, but it helps fill in the story that aids in memory recall.

    The Whos Who app has several optional fields for entering extraneous details for those very important contacts. All of these fields can be searched in case you are trying to remember the name of the lady from "Hawaii" or the man who was an avid "baseball" fan.

  • Associations and Triggers

    Mnemonics, word play, and outright whimsical visualizations are often used by memory experts. Think "Joe from Jersey," "Suzy sales," or "Richard the rich guy." You might picture Roseanne holding a bouquet of roses, or Nancy wearing fancy pants. Shirley drinking a Shirley Temple.

    If you are so inclined, Whos Who has a "hint" field to capture your creative associations. The hint is revealed on demand in the Quiz, so that you can practice active recall testing. Research has shown that active recall testing is far more effective at building strong memories than passive study.

  • Connections

    Whenever possible, it is useful to make a connection between your new acquaintance, and someone you know with the same name. Bob, who is tall like Uncle Bob. John, who resembles Johnny Depp.

  • Choose to Care

    The primary reason we have problem remembering names is that we're not focused on learning it. We have a lot of information competing for our attention, much of it more immediately important than a name. Once you make the decision consciously to remember names because you care about the people you are interacting with, you immediately become much better at it. Remember, people feel good when you remember their name, and worse when you don't.

Who's Who

Who's Who

Remembering Names and Faces

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