Thursday, November 18, 2004

Remembering Names

Remembering Names

In our everyday interactions with people, It is common for us to forget people's names. Every now and then you'll hear people lament about how bad their memory has become, because they getting old.

I forget people's names quite often too but I do not believe it's because the power of my memory is diminishing. Instead I believe we forget things easily as we grow older because we do not bother to associate any significance to our everyday experiences anymore. Everything tends to be a repetition of similar events in the past.

If you look back on your week in the office, you will probably strain to remember what you did on particular day of the week, say Tuesday. This is because in a typical week, everyday feels the same and nothing stands out. But we all remember where we were on September 11 2001.

On each business trip, I usually use up half a box of business cards. When we meet so many people in our daily lives--casual introductions that hold no special significance--it is natural that their names would slip from our memory unless we make a special effort to remember them.

More often than not a person's name slips away instantly from memory the moment he or she is introduced to us--especially when there's a huge group of people involved. Usually that happens because we are too concerned with ourselves--our minds are preoccupied with the image that we are trying to project to the other person, instead of listening to what he or she has to say. The best way to remember another person's name is to try and use it immediately in your conversation with the person.

When I was teaching my class of around 30 students in the university, I made it a point to remember every one of their names by my second session with them. I took the trouble to talk to each and every one of them individually and I repeatedly addressed them using their names during my first lecture. I also had a habit of observing very insignificant details about people (ala Sherlock Holmes) such as the brand of cigarette that they smoke, the kind music they listen to and the type of stationeries they use. And whenever I needed to quote examples to illustrate a point in my lecture, I'd use things that are familiar to them.

Using people's names helps a lot if you want to buld rapport with them. It shows that you value people as unique individuals and that you are genuinely interested in them. Because I'm also an avid booklover, I sometimes like to think of people as books--mighty volumes of experience and wisdom which you can tap into "interactively". If you are also a bibliophile like me, maybe by looking at people's names as "book titles", it might actually help you to remember them better!

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