Remembering Names

remember names 1

We gained a little knowledge at our Leadership Matters Course (LMC) last Nov. To help me review what we learned and pass it on, I will post a series of notes on some of the subjects we studied. There is a Chinese saying that, loosely translated, says, “If there is a relationship, then anything can be worked out. But if there is no relationship, then everything can be a problem.” Since many things hinge on a relationship of trust, let’s begin with some principles of building relationships, and the very first topic is remembering names. And you know how embarrassing it can be if you keep forgetting someone’s name!

Some people are very good at recalling names. I was very impressed by the former chief executive of the bank where my wife used to work. The bank would invite its executives and spouse to Christmas parties, and I was amazed that the CEO can recall each of the spouses’ names, even though he sees them only once a year, and there were dozens of them! But if you are not so richly endowed, LMC taught us an acronym as a tool – IRA. No, not Internal Revenue Agency, but:

1. Impression
2. Repetition
3. Association

When someone is being introduced to you, the first memory aid is to discreetly note any distinguishing features about that person’s face and name. Mull over your first impression his/her facial/physical characteristics and name, to see if anything unusual comes to mind. The second tool is to mentally repeat that name several times before you file it in your memory bank, since repetition is the key to recall. The third key is to associate your impression to a mental picture that could jog your memory. Linking a phrase that rhymes with the individual’s name to something that he/she does is often very helpful in this regard.

For example, one of the LMC trainers we met was a former fighter jet pilot. As a pilot, time was of the essence, since once the alarm was sounded, he had very little time to be battle ready. So, he associated his name “Pete Kluck” to the phrase “Beat the Clock”, which rhymes, and we had no difficulty in remembering his name and his former profession. Try that on new people you meet. Think of their IRA, and see if it helps you to recall their names next time.

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