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I’m Bad With Names
A person’s name is the most important word in the language — to them.
Leaders who have trouble remembering the names of those they meet have one of two issues. Either they don’t really care about the people they are meeting, or they are too focused on the introduction to listen attentively to the name.
They know that once a name is missed, it is exceptionally hard to recover from. The embarrassment of asking again for a person’s name after any time has passed prevents even the most secure people from correcting the error.
Leaders who are uninterested in solving this common problem typically refer to themselves as I’m bad with names. The truth is, unless a person’s short-term memory is significantly impaired, no one is bad at names. Rather, they are bad at fixing the problem.
Leaders who are uninterested in capturing another person’s name put themselves at a distinct disadvantage in terms of advocacy, connecting, and information sharing.
It is exceedingly hard to bypass another person’s name when ensconced in a meaningful conversation or discussion. At some point, it becomes awkward not to refer to people by their name. Personal references, including names, invite people into a conversation. Not referring to them by name has the opposite effect.
Getting better at grabbing and remembering names takes practice, but is not very difficult.
The touchstone for mastering the skill is simply repeating the other person’s name immediately upon an introduction. As soon as the other party offers their name, those good at this find a way to repeat it one or more times. If they didn’t hear the enunciation or missed it because they were too focused on making a good first impression, they must correct this immediately, asking the person to repeat it and help them along.
With an extended hand, a leader says, “I’m Terry,” which is usually followed by, “Nice to meet you, my name is Casey.” This is the moment those interested in capturing names have been waiting for.
Launching into conversation does not burnish the name into memory, so a good leader must repeat it immediately. “Casey, thanks for being here. It’s a pleasure to get to know you.” Leaders score memory points if they can quickly use the name again: “I’m wondering, Casey, why we haven’t been introduced before, as we know so many people in common.”
Leaders who accept the lame excuse that they are simply bad at names let themselves off the hook for working to get better at it. While no one holds a perfect record for name memory, any leader can make huge strides by repeating the other person’s name as early in the introduction as possible.
When other people really matter, it is the least a good leader can do.