You Can Remember Names

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If you did your homework from Monday’s post then you’ve been practicing your listening skills all week and you’re ready to put them to good use remembering names. So let’s get right to it.

You’ve just met someone and they told you their name, you listened intently and heard it loud and clear. Now you need to store it in your memory bank so they next time you see them it will come to you instantly.

Here’s a neat little formula to assist you in doing just that. It’s called the IRA formula and it work wonders for those that use it.

The “I” stands for Impression. If we’re going to remember someone’s name we need to get an impression of them; how they look, how they talk, what size they are, if they look like someone else we know. When you pay attention to those details (as you listen) these details will pay you back when you need them. As you get that impression of them it’s probably a good idea to not use what they are wearing to form that impression because if they aren’t wearing it next time…..

The “R” stands for repetition. The idea here is to repeat their name in the course of the conversation. Let’s say I just met Eugene, my part of the conversation is going to go something like this: So Eugene, how long have you lived here? Were you born here too? Where do you work? How long have you worked there Eugene? What’s your favorite hobby? Any other fun things you do in your free time Eugene?

You get the idea. Not only is using someone’s name a great way to remember it, it’s also a wonderful human relations principle. We all love hearing our name. One word of caution here, if you’re planning on using repetition to remember someone’s name you should be sure you have the name right… I used this part of the IRA formula and repeated “Ricki’s” name several times before he kindly informed me his actual name was Micky. I guess that proves that no plan is fool proof, or at least Steve proof.

The “A” stands for Association. Associate the person and their name with what they do for a living, where they work, a famous person, someone they look like, etc. it gives you another “hook” to recall from your memory and their name will be attached to that hook.

The IRA formula works, if you work at it. Years ago I met a true gentleman named George, it didn’t take long to discover that he could remember names like no one I had ever seen. If he met a room full of 40 people and then saw them again 6 months later he would remember literally every single one of their names. I was amazed by that and asked him how he did it. He didn’t mean to but his answer embarrassed me, he said “it’s important to me, so I work at it”.

If remembering names is truly important to you then you can work at it too. You may not do as well as George but with a little effort I’m sure you can surprise yourself.

Now, no more of that “what’s his name” stuff!

Why You Don’t Remember Names

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So, you’ve just met someone and of course one of the first things they did was tell you their name. Now just five minutes later you couldn’t repeat their name if your own life depended on it.

You apologize and mumble something about your terrible memory as you ask them to repeat their name.

Sound familiar? Well, I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that you just told a little white lie there. The good news is that in all likelihood your memory is just fine. You didn’t “forget” their name you never heard it in the first place. Now don’t get to worrying about your hearing cause that’s fine too, you don’t have a hearing problem, what you have is a listening problem.

You see, while they were telling you their name you, instead of listening, were thinking of what you were going to say next. You, like lots of lots of other people, didn’t want there to be a pause while you were considering what they said. As they were talking you were preparing to respond.

You made the most common listening mistake there is: you listened to respond instead of listening to understand.

There is a world of knowledge out there for those that listen well. When we commit to really listen we discover details that make succeeding much faster and often, much easier. Listening is a skill, and like any skill we can improve it through practice.

Don’t worry about a little silence as you seek to understand what was said to you before replying, great communicators seek to understand before they seek to be understood.

If you’re serious about listening better here is a bit of homework for you: ask three people that know you well what you can do to be a better listener and then do it. Don’t argue, don’t disagree, just do it. If you’ve picked the right three people they will know what you need to do.

If you’re really serious about listening better and you are married, make certain that one of those three people is your spouse. The same rules apply, no arguing, just do it.

Now, back to remembering names… Oh geez, it looks like we’re out of time.

In Friday’s post I’ll share with you a formula that will make remembering names (assuming you really heard them) much easier and even fun. Until then listen up, you’ll never remember what you didn’t hear in the first place.