"The sweetest sound to a person's ear is the sound of their own name."--Dale Carnegie
How often do you find yourself thinking, "Was it Mary or Marie?" "Don or Ron?" "Jen? Laura? Sue?"
You meet someone, they introduce themselves, and two minutes later you can't recall their name. It happens all the time.
But Ron White, a two-time national memory champion, says it's important to remember names--and luckily, it's a skill anyone can master.
"When you can remember names and faces, you make others feel special," White explains. "Zig Ziglar used to say, 'People don't care how much you know until they first know how much you care.' By remembering names you show people that you care."
He once memorized 2,300 names of fallen US soldiers from the war in Afghanistan, in the order of their death. It took him months--but he did it.
Here's how you can remember anyone's name:
Step 1: Focus
Focus is the first key to remembering names, says White. "The No. 1 reason that you don't remember someone's name is that you never really heard it in the first place. You weren't listening. You were thinking about what they think of you, what you think of them, what you would say next, and so on."
You need to cut through the clutter and focus. "You do this by asking yourself a question," he says. "From now on, whenever you meet someone, as you walk towards them ask yourself: 'What is their name? What is their name? What is their name?' Repeat this as you are walking towards them. This will focus your brain."
Step 2: File
You need a place to store the data. If you hang your keys on a hook when you walk into your home, then you know right where to get them. If you don't hang them then you might spend hours looking for them later, White explains. "You need a location on their face to 'hang their name.'"
Look at their face for a unique or distinctive feature. Do they have big ears, pretty eyes, a baldhead, sideburns, scars, thick eyebrows, or another distinctive feature? Pick a feature and picture their name hanging off of it or painted on it.
Step 3: Create an image
"Have you ever said, 'I am so good with faces. I never forget a face. I just can't think of the name?' This is because your mind remembers what it sees but it is harder to remember what it hears," White says. "You saw the face. You never saw the name."
In order to get really good at remembering names, "you need to start seeing the names as well."
Steve = a stove
Lisa = Mona Lisa
Karen = carrot
Brian = brain
Matt = welcome mat
Ron = run
Michelle = missile
Kelly = key
Robert = robot
"Once you have created an image for a name, the key is to use that image for the rest of your life for that name. For example, every Steve will be a stove (or whatever you decide to use for Steve). Every Ron will be run (or whatever you decide to use for Ron)," White says.
The best way to get good at this is every time you read a name tag, see a name on a billboard, meet someone, or hear a name for the next 30 days, turn it into an image. "If you do this, at the end of a month surely you will have turned 100-200 common names into images, and this is really all anyone needs to get really good," he explains.
Step 4: Match those distinctive features with the images
Next you'll want to imagine the image you created on the distinct feature on their face. For example, if you meet a man with thick eyebrows and his name is Steve, imagine a stove cooking his eyebrows, White says.
If you meet a woman named Lisa with pretty eyes, you imagine you are painting the Mona Lisa's eyes.
"The key here is to make the picture full of action and emotion. If it is a stove, then imagine you feel the heat and the smell of burning hair. The more senses you use, the better."
Step 5: Review
The difference between long-term memory and short-term memory is review.
Whenever you pass a building or home where you met someone in the past, try to review their names. "Ask yourself routinely, 'Who did I meet last week? Who did I meet yesterday?'" White says.
"At the end of each night ask yourself, 'Who did I meet today?' Review the 'file' (face feature), image, and the story you visualized on their face," he suggests. "It's not cheating to keep a names notebook and write down the people you meet. When you write them down make sure to write down their name and facial feature. For example: 'Steve: thick eyebrows, stove.'"