Maxim #1 - Remember the Names of People You Meet
Is there anyone in the world who hasn’t felt the sting of realizing they were forgotten as soon as they were introduced?
If relationships are the core to an authentic life, then it makes sense to start at the very origin of relationships: the introduction.
The most immediate gesture we can make at the start of a relationship is to remember the names of people we meet. It’s an effort. By many accounts, a seemingly impossible effort. Nevertheless, an indispensable effort.
We extend ourselves in this way not just to validate the people we meet (although it does that). We do it for the sake of our own integrity.
Granted, it’s difficult to remember new names. We are nervous. There’s a lot to take in. Rooms can be noisy. Distractions abound. Some names fall uneasily on our ears We are anxious. We are self-conscious. We so want to make a good first impression, we forget the first step is doing just that.
All that is true. But let's be honest. We often forget names because we are more fixated on what we intend to say than what we might hear.
Instead of listening, we are waiting. Waiting for our turn to talk.
Decision and Humility
Remembering names requires a decision and humility.
The decision is to understand before being understood. That means focusing on the names instead of what we intend to say.
The humility is to admit when our memory fails. That means admitting when we forget a name.
It’s not easy to admit defeat. It’s uncomfortable hurting the feelings of people you just met. Yet what’s the alternative? Bluffing your way through the conversation? As awkward as it feels, just admit you forgot and ask for the name again. It’s really that simple and that embarrassing.
It’s as simple as saying, “Please forgive me. Can you say your name again?”
Most of all, it’s honest.
People you meet will actually be reassured by the gesture.
When I make a conscious decision to remember the names of the people I meet, it forms a solid basis for the relationship. The more I do it, the better I become at remembering names.
This is not the place to get into tips and techniques for remembering names. There are countless books and videos on the subject.
(My main memory tip is to write the name down as soon as I can do so discretely. Nothing aids the task more than the motor memory of physically writing the name of the person I just met.)
This maxim—Remember the Names of People You Meet—is first on my list because relationships are the first blissful diagnostic of an authentic and happy life.