Make no mistake about it, friends: you lose points when you can’t recall a name. Whether it’s a girl or a potential business partner you’re trying to woo, remembering names shows respect and regard. On the flip side, failure to do so makes you look like an amateur—and is a surefire game-killer with the ladies. But never fear, here are a few tricks to plant names firmly in your memory banks, plus what to do in the rare event an identity slips your mind. Read on, turn into a human Rolodex.
Perhaps the most obvious advice we can give you is to really check in mentally when people say their names. “My name is _____, what’s yours?” is a conversational formality like “How are you?” However, when you ask “What’s yours?” you actually need to take note of the answer. Listen closely and you’ll get out of the gate on the right note.
Ask the person to spell out the name, if there are alternate spellings. Then repeating, “Staci with an ‘I’,” back at her will help it click. (But come on, man, how could you forget Staci?)
Repeat, Repeat and Repeat Again
Once you have the person’s name, look at them and repeat it to yourself three times. Use it as often as possible during the first few minutes of your conversation. Even something like, “Julie, nice to meet you,” will help to burn the name into your head. Ask the person to spell out the name, if there are alternate spellings. Then repeating, “Staci with an ‘I’,” back at her will help it click. (But come on, man, how could you forget Staci?)
Use Mental Tricks
When repeating a name to yourself, visualize it on the person’s forehead for a few seconds. Note an outstanding physical feature or piece of a person’s outfit. For example, if a guy named Jermaine is wearing a strange jacket, think to yourself “Jacket Jermaine.” Later, if you forget, looking at his jacket will trigger your memory. Mental images help, too. A person named “Michael Forrester” can easily be remembered by picturing your new best friend in the middle of the woods. (For more on mental tricks, check out 4 Memory Tips You Will Never Forget.)
If you do forget a name, the worst thing you can do is not own up to it. Using the wrong name, or admitting hours later that you’ve forgotten, just looks bad. Instead, apologize for your faux pas and ask for the person’s name again—immediately. The longer you let the problem linger, the more offended the person will be. Everyone understands that names get forgotten, especially when you are being introduced to a large group of people. It might be a bit awkward, but it’s way less awkward than addressing Michael Forrester as Jermaine McGee.
Bail Yourself Out
If you run into someone days, weeks or months after an initial meeting, his or her name may slip your mind. Three quick fixes:
1. Simply ask for the person’s name. When she answers with “Maria,” play it off with a laugh and say you remembered her first name, but it’s her last name you are stuck on.
2. Introduce yourself all over again. “Hey, I’m Jordan, we met at a bar a couple weeks ago,” will likely lead to a response like “Oh hey, I’m Kenja.”
3. Introduce a friend by name. “Have you met my friend Steve?” The other person should respond with “No, I haven’t. I’m Billy.” If he doesn’t, relax. He might just be too socially awkward to be worth hanging with, anyway. (Sorry, Billy.)
Jordan Harbinger is a Wall Street lawyer turned Social Dynamics expert and coach. He is the owner and co-founder of The Art of Charm, a dating and relationships coaching company. If you dig this and want to learn more from Jordan and The Art of Charm team, visit theartofcharm.com. You can also interact with Jordan on Facebook.