At my recent Meetup event, I met a lot of new faces. As guys walked in, I introduced everyone to one other by first name. This stunned them and a few guys came up to me to ask, “How the hell do you remember so many new names?”
That gave me an idea for a group question. I asked the men in the room to raise their hand if they regularly forgot girls’ names — everyone’s arms shot up instantly.
Failing to recall a woman’s name is a small mistake that can ruin an amazing connection. As Dale Carnegie said:
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
While there are a few people who hate their name, repeating it back to them is vital to forming a bond. Because if you can’t even remember a girl’s name, she has every right to feel unappreciated and undervalued.
Don’t worry, I used to be horrible with names, too. I’ve had girls look at me mid-conversation and ask, “Do you know my name?” only to draw a complete blank and strike out. Prevent this from happening and check out some tricks I’ve used to become a human Rolodex:
Pay attention and listen!
I’ve said this many times but I feel it’s so important that it cannot be stressed enough. If you’re in your head or worried about what to say next, you aren’t listening to her. She’s going to introduce yourself, give her name, and it’s going to pass right through you.
Get out of your own head and into the conversation. Consciously pull yourself out of your mind and hear the words coming out of her mouth! This is the most critical skill in becoming a good conversationalist.
Breath, relax, and focus on the moment and not your internal voice. Accept that you’re going to be nervous sometimes. The harder you fight your anxiety, the harder it fights back.
Repeat it back
If you hear her name once, it’s easy to forget. But if it’s said multiple times, it will naturally ingrain itself into your head. I’ve found three times is a good balance where it’s enough to be helpful while not sounding like a used car salesman.
- As soon as she gives her name, say it back to her. “Hi I’m Maria.” “Hi Maria, I’m Nick”
- Use her name again when you lead into conversation. “Maria, what are you celebrating tonight?” or “You’re not from around here, are you Michelle?”
- Say it again early in conversation, especially while being playful. For example, when a girl found out I studied psychology she asked if I’d been analyzing her. I responded sarcastically, “Well obviously Maria, I’ve been judging and analyzing you the whole time”. Really though, you can tack her name onto the beginning or end of any statement or question you make. “Do you spend a lot of time with your family, Maria?” “Oh my god Maria, I don’t think we can be friends anymore!”
- Repeat her name a few times in your head. Try not to get pulled out of the interaction but just say, “Maria, Maria, Maria, MARIA!” internally. Elongating vowels or exaggerating pronunciation can also help.
Spell it out
If she’s got a more unique name, ask her to spell it out for you. “I’m Arianna.” “Arianna, how do you spell that?” Hearing it fleshed out makes it more concrete in your mind.
You can also clarify the spelling of a common name like Robin vs. Robyn. “Robin, is that spelled R-o-b-i-n or R-o-b-y-n?” or simply “Is that Robin with an I or with a Y?”
Use a mnemonic device
A mnemonic device is a tool that aids you in retaining information. It can be structured in any way as long as it works for you. Often, the more silly or obscure it is, the better it will stick in your mind. Some examples are:
- Create a rhyme. “Carrie likes cherries.” “Brook the damn good cook.” “Racy Stacy.”
- Associate her name with something. It could be what she’s wearing, a celebrity she reminds you of, or even a physical feature. “Molly the redhead…like Molly Ringwald.” “Gina…greena (she’s wearing a green dress)” “Kennedy…JFK or Mr. President.”
- Think of her name in a funny way. “Jeanette…jeans, net.” “Alexanda….Alexandra the Great”. “Jacqueline…Jack-o-lantern.”
Ask her again
When you truly can’t remember, ask her again. Just make sure you do it early and don’t wait until you’ve gotten deeper in conversation. “I’m sorry, can I have your name again?” It’s not the greatest route but it’s honest and better than looking like a fool later on.
There are many other tips to remembering names but I like to keep it simple. Listen for the name, repeat it back, spell it out or use a mnemonic device if needed, and ask as a last resort. Practice regularly and you could rattle off names like Marky Mark.