The Importance of Remembering Names & 5 Ways to Remember Them

“I’m terrible at remembering people’s names” you might say, as you shrug your shoulders…

As I did for many years, until I read recently:

“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
– Dale Carnegie

Think about it – your name was given to you by your parents and you have learnt to respond to it practically from birth.

One neuroscience study into the impact of names on our brains proved that the mere mention of your name lights up different parts of your brain like no other words do. This creates powerful positive associations with anyone who uses it, and means that other person gets your full attention and focus, with you listening intently to their thoughts and ideas.

Think about all of those people who have spent thousands of pounds to have a private hospital wing, a library, or a university building named after them. People want to feel important and be remembered, and it’s their name that will do that for them.

Your name is an immediate connection to your individual identity. When someone remembers and uses your name to you will immediately feel more important to them and it will leave a lasting impression on you.

I have had this exact experience recently. I joined the London spin studio 3Tribes a few months ago, and since going there nearly every member of staff – on reception as well as the instructors, has used my name. It’s incredible, firstly considering the number of members they must have, and because I notice how much it makes me feel valued, important to them, and respected.

Equally notice, that when someone doesn’t remember your name or use it, you will feel pretty unimportant and even disrespected.

The importance of remembering names in leadership

If you want to motivate people, if you want to inspire and engage them, if you want to build loyalty, if you want to build rapport and have good client relationships…

The simple act of remembering someone’s name will support you in achieving that.

People will just like you more. We all want to be known, we all want to feel important, and when someone uses your name, the words used around it feel more personal, and that person feels more caring and empathetic towards you.

You’ll appear more competent. The mere fact that so many people struggle to remember names (or basically don’t bother), and the fact that you do, shows that you take them more seriously than perhaps others do – especially on first impressions.

The importance of remembering names and emotional intelligence

When you use someone’s name you are practicing all four quadrant’s in our emotional intelligence model. For all of the reasons already highlighted, you are especially practicing social awareness and relationship management


For more detail on this model click here

So how to do it?

5 top tips for remembering people’s names

1) Meet and repeat

When you meet someone start using their name immediately and throughout your conversation. For example, if the man you have just met says his name is Andrew, say, “Hi Andrew, nice to meet you.” Or ask a question with his name at the end,“ How long have you worked here Andrew?”

Then when you say goodbye, make sure you use the name one last time while looking at them head on – to commit it to memory.

2) Spell it out

Ask the person to spell their name out, especially if it’s an unusual one. This is especially good if you have a visual learning style, as it creates an image of the person’s name. If you can get hold of a business card and then glance at the name on the card while you’re still speaking to them, that also helps – as it creates an immediate connection between the person’s face and the name.

3) Associate

My personal favourite and the one I’m using most at the moment. This is about creating a verbal game or image when you first hear the person’s name. This can either be an alliteration, like one of my recent ones “Fat Matt” (he was far from fat and that’s why it worked), or using something else that springs to mind when you here it, like another one of mine “Peter Piper pickled pepper”.

4) Connect

Another way (and another favourite), is to associate the person you’re talking to, with someone else you already know or who is famous, and has the same name or looks a bit like them. For example, I recently met someone called Olly who had a bit of a quiff, so he is now “Olly Murs”.

5) Commit to care

Memory experts say that the main reason we forget people’s names is not because we’ve got a bad memory, but that we’re not fully focused on learning it (because we have so much going on in our brains already).

So just make the conscious decision that you are going to start remembering names – and you will become much better at doing it.