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How to Remember Names: Winning the Name Game

Part 2: More Tips for Remembering Names


How to Remember Names: Winning the Name Game

Remembering Names is Good Business

Image (c) RL Productions / Getty Images

What else can you do to make remembering names easier? Here are more tips from Craig Harrison:

8. Make written notes to yourself, at the time or later. Don’t tax your memory. Notate on the back of their business card or in your PDA. (Beware of writing on the front of someone's business card. In some cultures it's perceived as defacing their person!)

9. Ask for help with complicated names or ones in a foreign tongue. Take pride in learning the trills and other accents of foreign languages. Customers will appreciate your efforts and warm to your correctly pronouncing their name.

10. If you ask someone how to pronounce their name, never respond "Oh, I could never pronounce that!" Not only is it disrespectful, it's lazy on your part, to not even attempt the correct pronunciation. Try your best to pronounce it correctly in their presence; ask for help if you aren't letter perfect the first time. Remember, it's not about you and your comfort level, it's about them and making the effort to respect their identity.

11. Learn the story behind the person's name. Orunamamu's name, in the Nigerian language of Yoruban, means "Oh you royal one, miss morning star." Sometimes she'll simply tell people "The 'O' is for respect!" That's memorable!

More Expert Advice on Remembering Names

According to the mingling maven herself, author Susan RoAne, "If you have trouble remembering names, understand that others have forgotten yours. Never, ever ask, "Do you remember me?""

The author of bestsellers How to Work A Room and How To Create Your Own Luck: The "You Never Know" Approach, RoAne recommends that we simply, "put out our hand, smile and re-introduce ourselves. Ninety percent of people will respond in kind and no one is playing the memory game. For the ten percent who don't ask, tell the truth: "It's been one of those days... I can't even remember my name.""

And when the shoe is on the other foot, and your name is lost in translation, turn the other cheek. Don't get angry or feel victimized. Past Toastmasters International president Dilip Abayasekara, Ph.D., DTM, has experienced the ups and downs of having a distinctive name. Dilip, a Sri Lankan whose last name means "leader without fear," knows his name is difficult for a first-timer to pronounce. He offers a pronunciation guide, relating his name's pronunciation to words people already know: Dilip sounds like Philip; the first three consonants of Abayasekara mimic the first three letters in Spanish or French: Ah – Bay – Say, to which one can add Kuh – Ruh. It works!

Of course, if the person in question offers you a nickname you are welcome to use it. Many people have trouble pronouncing (and spelling) the name of the longtime Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (give yourself two points if you pronounced it "Shuh-SHEV-ski"). Many players and fans alike eschew the Polish pronunciation and simply call him by the alliterative "Coach K."

Situations Where Remembering Names Can Be Especially Challenging

Are you talking to ME?

One challenge occurs in environments when more than one person has the same name. In such cases nicknames may be the answer to remembering names. One person may prefer Michael, another Mike and a third might even prefer Mikey. What is needed is mutual assent. Assigning a nickname without a person's permission can be insulting. Get a person's buy-in. Remember, their identity is at stake. Accede to their wishes whenever possible. What's humorous to you may be insulting to the person in question.

One Upsmanship Has Its Place

Recently Distinguished Toastmaster Keith Ostergard, their Vice-Chair of Training in the People's Republic of China, told me in one of his companies they had so many employees with the same name it became problematic. According to Keith: "In China it is very common to meet or work with people that have the same name - both surname and given name. Wang is one of the most common Chinese names and in a job I worked here we had six people in a department of 100 that had the name Wang Chen. In order to keep them straight they all agreed to let me number them: Wang Chen 1, Wang Chen 2, etc.)." That worked well until one left the company. According to Ostergard: "They all wanted to change their numbers!"

What’s in a name? Gold. Learning, using, and properly pronouncing customers' names is a great first step to building solid relationships built on trust, respect and admiration. Win the name game!

Craig Harrison is a professional speaker, corporate trainer and consultant who founded Expressions of Excellence!™ to provide sales and service solutions through speaking. Contact him toll-free at 888-450-0664, through his Web site http://www.ExpressionsofExcellence.com or via email.

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