I recognise your face but I can't remember your name
A few weeks ago we went out for dinner for my father in laws 88th birthday. There were 9 of us. The waitress took 9 orders. She didn’t write down one of them. My wife, and my mother in law, were both worried that the waitress wouldn’t remember our orders. Once again, there was no need for them to be worried. The orders were 100% correct.
Remembering people's orders in a restaurant or people's names are skills that anyone can master. It just takes a little bit of work.
Chances are high, in your role, it will be very useful for you to be good at remembering names and little details on the people you regularly and not so regularly interact with.
I’ve noticed that the people I work with who are very good at remembering names have worked at their technique over the years. They appreciate how important it is.
When you start to confidently recall people’s names, their children’s names, the schools their children attend and the type of coffee they like, it sends out a strong message. No, not that you are stalking them. It sends out a message that you notice them and you listen to them when they are speaking. It highlights that you are interested in them. What a great and simple way to strengthen a relationship.
Here is a technique that I use for recalling names. I call it the R.A.I.L. technique. I use one or two of these methods to help me when I am meeting new people.
R – Repetition
When you meet someone for the first time, perhaps at an event, I suggest you repeat their name three or four times in the first minute. It might sound a bit like this:
“Hi, I’m Steve, the NSW Sales Manager for Gottanich medical supplies. I don’t believe we’ve met yet”. Offer your hand and smile. They will respond and introduce themselves.
“Hi, I’m Ken”. You then say, “Great to meet you Ken. Can I ask you something, Ken what prompted you to attend this event today"?
Listen closely to Ken’s response, smiling and nodding your head. Then, if the opportunity is there, you might say - “Ken, I’m just going to the bar to get a drink, can I get you one…Ken”?
A – Association
With a bit of quick thinking you should be able to associate the person you have just met with someone else you know who has the same name. Consider this scenario. You have just met Linda at a function. She’s a very fit woman with excellent posture and well-defined biceps. Your mind quickly associates her with Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman in the 1970’s TV show. You might not see Linda for another 3 months, but if the association is a good one for you, your mind will be able to recall her name when you next see her.
I - Imagination
It seems that the more vivid our imagination is when remembering names, the better the chance of a recall. I recall years ago meeting an old neighbour of mine for the first time. She introduced herself. Her name was Annette. I immediately thought of her being stuck underneath a giant soccer net. It helped me recall her name. The clear visualisation made it easy for me. Let your imagination run a little wild. It really helps.
Imagine you are at a lunch and you are seated at a table with 7 people you don’t know. When you go to the bar or the bathroom, practice memorising the location of where everyone is seated. Our minds are very good at remembering things in order. After the event, when you return to your desk, sketch out a little map of the seating plan for your table. You’ll be surprised how useful this method can be. With a little bit of practice and enough time, you will be able to recall the names of up to 10 tables of 8 people quite easily.
Your practice plan:
Start small and slowly build. If you learn one new name a day that’s 365 new names by the end of the year. If you tell yourself this is important and you are willing to practice you will improve. Don’t try too hard, just be willing to try. Improvement tends to come in stages. Don’t expect to immediately be great at remembering names. Give yourself a bit of time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you were trying to lose weight, unless you had lap band surgery, you wouldn’t expect to lose 40 kilos in 4 weeks.
One final suggestion. Ask your local barista or barman how they remember not only people’s names but also what they drink. They might share with you their technique.
Oh and if you do bump in to me at an event and I appear to being giving you a rather blank look, don’t panic. I’m probably racking my brains to recall if you remind me of either Wonder Woman or a giant soccer net.