Even the thought of it stresses you out: you walk into a job interview, sweating profusely, and shake the hand of the person who will hopefully be your future boss.
At this exact moment, they are the only person in the world that you need to impress. You introduce yourself. They reply:
“Hi, nice to meet you, I’m…”
Their voice fades into the void surrounding you. Every fibre in your body is focused on smiling like a normal person, preventing any spontaneous verbal diarrhoea and wiping your clammy hands on that one ‘nice’ outfit you’ve definitely outgrown.
“Nice to meet you, too”, you reply, getting dangerously close to blurting out “Mice to teet you, moo” instead. But then you realise, within two seconds, that you’ve already forgotten their name.
Rachel? Rebecca? Rochelle? Did I even hear it in the first place?
Many of us endure this painful struggle on an alarmingly frequent basis, and it’s not always caused by nervousness.
It’s genuinely absurd how many times I’ve confidently introduced myself to someone in a relaxed, informal setting only to completely blank on their name within seconds.
Even worse is when you can’t remember it after meeting them multiple times.
Thankfully, you’re about to be blessed with a few simple techniques that’ll help you get out of these sticky situations.
Repetition, repetition, repetition
This is one of the simplest and most effective methods in the playbook. When Jimbo says, “G’day, I’m Jimbo”, repeat it out loud: “Hi Jimbo, nice to meet you”. Even if you just say “Jimbo” with a nod as you shake his hand, it’s all the same.
If the introduction leads to a conversation, occasionally repeat the name as you address the person (in moderation, people).
Importantly, make sure you say their name once more when you say goodbye. Look them in the face as you do so to help commit it to memory.
Also in our How To Adult series:
Associate the name with a place, object or image
Exactly how you use this strategy will depend on how your brain is wired, but the idea is that you use association to help your brain remember the person’s name. It could be something related to their appearance, personality, background or anything else at all.
One method is to use rhymes, alliteration or other catchy phrases. For example, you might meet a lady from Brisbane called Bethany. ‘Bethany from Brisbane’ might be longer ‘Bethany’ on its own, but making this association can help it come to you in the future.
If you’re a visual person, try associating the name with an image: you could picture Rod with a giant rod
up his butt on his head, or Doug holding a shovel (get it?).
Remember, you can associate someone’s name with pretty much anything, as long as it’s something you think of when you see them.
Who knows, maybe Dave makes you think of the NBA Finals series of ’98 for no particular reason. Even by associating his name with something, anything, you’re more likely to remember it.
Admit it. Sometimes you pretend you hear someone’s name just to avoid the awkwardness of asking for it again. This is dumb. Sure, it’s awkward if you have to ask after meeting them for the fifth time, but stress less if you’ve only just met them.
If you didn’t hear your co-worker introduce their boyfriend, just be honest, you gronk! “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name” works fine.
If you’re sharing their company for longer than a fleeting introduction, you have another opportunity when they leave. “Lovely to meet you – I’m sorry, what was your name again?”
People will appreciate you being an open and friendly communicator more than getting their name perfect on the first go. If they are offended that you had to ask again, well, they’re a jerk.
Easier said than done, right? The thing is, the reason you forget people’s names is often due to a lack of focus, rather than you just having a “bad memory”.
This means you just need to relax and concentrate on what’s being said. Spend less time worrying about your clammy hands or daydreaming about your weekend, because the second you do that is the second you’ll lose focus when they introduce themselves.
It helps to make the conscious decision to remember someone’s name instead of just switching on autopilot. Just focus!
Now, step out into the big, scary world and remember every goddamn name you across, you magnificent human.