The Importance of Remembering Faces and Names

Mar 11, 2019 | Culture, Leadership

A friend recently told me a story that reminded me of a quote from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People:

“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” 

My friend was at the end of what he thought was a successful interview when the interviewer asked one final question, “Do you remember my name?” Luckily, he had written it down, but what an interesting way to test a candidate’s listening skills. It would have been so embarrassing if my friend had forgotten the interviewer’s name, simply because he was too focused on what to say next during the opening introductions.

It is easy to blame forgetting someone’s name on poor memory. However, science shows that forgetting names may not be related to brain functionality at all. Instead, it is related to the arbitrary nature of names themselves. There are no synonyms one can use or associated language to jog one’s memory and yet a name is one of the most important words to remember.

So, why is it so important to remember a person’s name? Think about how good you feel when you meet someone, and they address you by name the next time they see you. It makes you feel memorable, important, and respected. It’s why our Apple products welcome us by name. It’s why Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign was so successful. This campaign replaced the Coca-Cola logo with individual names to convey the message that an ice-cold Coke tastes best when shared together with friends, family, and even strangers, while encouraging people to go out and find their own name or the name of a loved one.

At MacPhie, we believe in four strategies that help us remember the most important word in an individual’s vocabulary.

  1. If the context is appropriate, always bring name tags. Of course, we are not suggesting bringing a name tag to a one-on-one conversation; however, one of our core services is facilitating sessions with organizations’ Senior Management Teams and Boards of Directors. These sessions range from including 6 to 60 people! Name tags help us to make the conversation more authentic. Rather than pointing to someone when they raise their hand to contribute, we call on them by name. This creates a more personable feel and helps participants to be more engaged.
  1. Actively Listen and Repeat. We are often so consumed with how we are going to respond in a conversation that we are not actually listening to what the other person is trying to say. Make a conscious effort to listen for their name and repeat it back. For example, after Matthew introduces himself, reply back with “Hi Matthew, nice to meet you.” Continue to use the name throughout the conversation to form a mental relationship between the name and the face.
  1. Ask for Clarification. Sometimes names can be tricky and there is nothing worse than trying to get someone’s attention while trying to avoid saying their name. If you are not sure how to pronounce a person’s name – ask! It shows that you are interested and want to take the time to get to know them.
  1. Make it a Priority. In order to show you care, you have to choose to care. Taking the time to pay attention and learn someone’s name is the first step in forming a meaningful relationship. One trick we use is making associations with the person’s name and something in your life, for example they may have the same name as your mother. We also recommend focusing on a specific physical or facial feature to mentally link a name to a face.

Your calendars are filled with meetings with prospective clients and colleagues. We challenge you to be present in the conversation, actively listen, and use these tactics to remember the most important sound in those stakeholders’ language – their name.

By: Leah Theriault


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