Playing The Name Game

You just got home from a user group. It was fun. You talked with several long time friends. Best of all, you got to meet a couple new people! What were their names? If you’re like me you probably don’t remember.

I am a long time introvert. More than a couple days a week I come home from work and go lay down in my hammock in the back yard. After a full day of being around people, I just need some time when it’s quiet and I don’t have to talk to anyone.

And yet, my friendships and my ability to make new friends plays a big part of my happiness. I’ve found remembering people’s names is a big part of making new friends.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Doug, I’m just not good at remembering names.” I know. I’m not either. In fact, I would guess that most of us are bad at remembering the names of people we meet.

I’m not sure all the psychological factors at work here, but there are some fears that hold us back. I think we have a false expectation that we should be able to remember people’s names. Everyone is better than we are at remembering names. When we see someone we know, we know we should remember their names, but don’t. So we’re embarrassed and don’t say anything. We play these games trying to tease their name out of them. Sometimes we sneak around and quietly ask others if they remember their name.

Here’s my suggestion: ask them for their name. Own up to it and don’t let it embarrassed you. Here’s a simple line I use, “I’m sorry, I know I’m supposed to remember your name but I forgot. My name is Doug.” Odds are they’ve forgotten your name too. Odds are they are playing games trying to remember or find our your name. I don’t think I’ve had anyone react negatively to me asking their name.

I don’t think this is a license to simply give up trying to remember names. I think why people react positively is because I really am trying to learn and remember people’s names.

Here’s my number one trick for remembering people’s names: write it down. The act of recording it will help imprint it on your brain. You’re seeing it visually. You’re mechanically engaging with it.

I use Evernote Hello to keep up with names. I usually ask the new person I’ve met to fill out details. Evernote Hello uses your phone’s camera to take their picture. Associating faces with names is a great tool. I think I’ve only had one person decline to take their own picture when asked. Evernote Hello also tracks the date/time when we met along with GPS coordinates. This lets me associate their face, name, and the time and place where we met. All this syncs back into Evernote.

Learning and remembering someone’s name is a significant milestone in your relationship with them. Being able to call them by name when you see them is a great feeling for both of you. I encourage you to get over your fear of asking people’s name, make more friends, and be happier.

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