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How to Remember Names: Winning the Name Game

Part 1: Remembering Names is Good Business

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My name is Craig. But I'll answer to Greg. Most Gregs I know answer to Craig. Of course we are not alone: there's Eva and Ava, Bill and Bob, Jeff and John, and many more. I can't complain. I often confuse and occasionally mangle others' names. Names are not my strong suit.

But learning, remembering and properly pronouncing other peoples’ names is more than just good manners, it's good business and smart sales and service. What's in a name? Everything!

Every customer wants to be seen as individuals, feel special and feel respected. When you refer to a customer by his preferred name you are honoring him with respect. You’re also seeing him as the individual that he or she truly is. It’s a good beginning.

Over the years I've struggled to learn and remember names. The older I get the harder it becomes, in part because I continue to meet new people, sometimes an audience at a time!

Given our global marketplace you will likely be meeting customers from China, Israel, Nigeria and Germany, Argentina and Arkansas. Names and pronunciations vary by country and region. Eugenia -pronounced "U-Gene-E-Ah" in the US — sounds entirely different in the Southern hemisphere: "O-heee-Nee-Yah." Win points by pronouncing it her way! My secret: I spell it out phonetically whether on paper or in my mind. Seeing it this way helps me pronounce it properly.

It took me a while to correctly pronounce Osafran Okundai and Orunamamu (O-Roon-a-Mamu). I've heard it mangled seven different ways. Ditto John Eweglaben. It would have been so easy to pull an Ed McMahon, and simply introduce him by saying "Here's Johnny!" Instead I had John spell his name out for me phonetically, and then practiced saying it repeatedly. Incidentally, it is pronounced "A-wig-LAY-Bin."

I accidentally insulted my colleague from Louisiana, Mademoiselle Carolyn Millet (pronounced Meee-Aye), by presuming her last name was pronounced like the grain. That's not Southern hospitality!

Need help remembering names? Employ the following tips to remember names and the vital details that accompany them.

1. When you hear someone's name repeat it out loud as soon as possible in conversation.

2. Append it to the beginning or ending of your greeting to that person: "It's a pleasure to meet you, Amber" or "Tyrone, how nice to meet you."

3. Try to associate a stranger's name with what they tell you about themselves. Repeat it out loud if need be: Ken, the southeast QC manager; Ariana, the internal service starlet. Hearing yourself say their names makes it more real and memorable.

4. European names employing W may sound like V's: Tony Bacezwski pronounces his name Tony Ba-SHEV-ski.

5. Chinese names may take the form of last name (surname), first name (given name). For example: Courtroom interpreter and longtime Oakland City Center Toastmaster Joe Parkman tells new friends: I'm no ordinary Joe, I'm Parkman Joe!" Indeed he is.

6. Employ mnemonic devices or alliteration to help you remember customers' names: Ling from Laos, Helen who’s Gellin', Sandy... like my sister-in-law (of the same name).

7. If you know your name will be hard to remember or pronounce for others, help them out: realtor Lisa Wierenga of Michigan encourages people to think of the phrase "Wearing A"; A realtor whose last name is Wojokowski helps people by saying "it's like 'where's your house keys!'" Oakland poet Lavignia asks people to call her "Vinny the Poet" for short.

Continue on to the next page of this article to learn more tips for remembering names...

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