You C.A.N. Remember Names – If You Put Your Mind To It

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“If you think you can or can’t; you’re right.” – Henry Ford, auto pioneer

Have you ever told yourself, “I’m terrible at remembering names?”

Do you realize you just did what’s called “failure forecasting?”  You just gave your mind a negatively-phrased order, and it will do exactly what you told it to do.

From now on, set yourself up for success by telling yourself, “I am going to GET GOOD at remembering names.”  And then use this simple C.A.N. system to do it.

Not only is it one of the best ways to make a positive first impression and let people know you care enough about them to make this effort; it’s a way to improve your attention/memory skills.

C = Commit

Remembering doesn’t just happen. You have to give your mind what’s called a “determining tendency.”

If you can’t remember something, it’s either because you didn’t give your mind a determining tendency, or you gave it a destructive determining tendency, i.e., “I’m terrible at remembering names.”

From now on, focus your attention on what you DO want (instead of what you DON’T want) by giving yourself a feasible, positively-phrased determining tendency such as:

•        “I will imprint and remember the names of all ten people at the board meeting.”

•        “I will remember the names of at least 6 people at this networking event.”

Put limiting labels in the past by saying, “I used to forget people’s names.  Now, I understand how important it is.  I know how I feel when someone remembers my name, and I commit to getting good at this so I do it for others.”

A = Attention on the Face

Distraction is the death of retention.  If you are scanning the room while being introduced to people, or thinking of something else when someone says their name, you’ll never remember it.

The goal is to associate the person’s face with their name, so every time you look at them, their name pops to mind.

The only way to achieve that face-name connection is to look people in the eye when meeting them. No “Look, there’s Jessica” scanning the room to see who just walked in.  Study the person’s face while they say their name so they’re imprinted and linked in your brain.

Another way to cement that face-name connection is to shake hands.  Instead of waiting for people to extend their hand, which can result in an awkward “Should we, shouldn’t we?” hesitation that gets introductions off to a distracting start, make it a habit to extend your hand first.

This causes you to lean forward which singles out that individual as the sole object of your attention.  The tangible act of shaking hands also creates a physical bridge so the two of you literally and figuratively connect, even in a noisy, crowded conference hallway or ballroom.

Try this right now.  Imagine leaning forward, extending your hand, focusing fully on someone’s face and noting the color of their eyes as they say their name.

Feel how this shuts out your surroundings?  100% attention on someone’s face is not only a prerequisite for remembering their name, it is a key characteristic of charisma, which is making the people you meet feel like they’re they only person in the room..

N = Numerous Spaced Repetitions

As soon as the person says his or her name, repeat it out loud to make sure you heard it right.

Saying “Nice to meet you Bob,” not only actively increases retention, it gives people an opportunity to correct you if you get it wrong. He may say, “It’s Rob, not Bob” which gives you a chance to say, “Thank you.  Got it.  Rob. Nice to meet you.”

By saying “ROB” out loud, and then repeating it silently to yourself every time you glance back at his face, you’re more likely to remember it because you’re using several senses to imprint it.

Memory is a result of intention + attention. Making a commitment to remember someone’s name, and repeating it whenever you look at their face, results in spaced imprinting which causes their name to “come to mind” when you see them again, even if it’s weeks later.

I’ll always remember the wife of a four star admiral who attended one of my “You Can Concentrate” workshops.  She said, “Sam, I meet hundreds of people a week. Sometimes, I go to three or four functions a day. I’ve realized I’ll never be able to remember everyone’s name. With this system, I C.A.N. remember more of them!”

You too C.A.N. remember names, if you put your mind to it, and if you use this system.  It’s one of the single best things you can do to get relationships off to a mutually-rewarding start.

[photo via Flickr User: Quinn Dombrowski // Creative Commons]