The value of learning names and five easy ways to do it!
So you're in a group - at work or with your friends - and a new person arrives. Maybe they're being introduced as the latest addition to your family constellation or perhaps they'll be your leader for the day.
'Hi,' they say. 'I'm Bobbie.'
'Hi, Bobbie,' you all reply. And one-by-one you tell Bobbie your names too.
In one version of this scenario, Bobbie looks at you all and smiles, nodding as you speak, making eye contact. You feel acknowledged, welcomed, respected.
However, a different Bobbie (of the sort I've met in several situations recently) glazes over as though names are a language they don't understand.
'Thanks,' this Bobbie says, when your group is done. 'But I won't remember any of those. I'm rubbish with names.'
We've all been Bobbie and we all know that learning new names can be a challenge. There's so much to deal with in these situations. There might be nerves about meeting new people, anxiety about being liked, or worry that you might not be accepted here. No matter how confident you are on the outside, there's probably a little child deep down inside yelling, 'Ahhhh! New people! I'm scared.'
But saying, 'I'm rubbish with names' and refusing to even have a go at facing those fears is itself, well... rubbish.
As a workshop facilitator, I know how important it is to get names right. It's easier to encourage a person to make a breakthrough with their learning when I can say, 'Wow, Elsie, that was amazing' rather than 'Wow, you at the back with the striped top, you're doing great.'
So how can we do it? How can we easily learn names and influence people? Here are five sure-fire ways to blast you on your path to name-knowing greatness:
1. Be curious
This is probably the most important part of any new interaction. As NLP Master Trainer, Ben Grassby, says, 'You have to become fascinated with the other. You don't know their story. You don't know where they're from. You don't know what they can teach you. Show some interest.'
2. Change your beliefs
The beliefs we hold about ourselves affect the way we behave. 'I'm no good at... painting/writing/speaking in public/learning people's names,' we might say. And, guess what? We aren't. Change your beliefs about yourself. Tell yourself a new story: 'I'm becoming brilliant at getting people's names first time.' 'I love learning people's names.' 'I have a competition with myself to see how many I can get right.' It might sound cheesy, but it works.
3. Allow yourself to be a learner
With practice and positive intention, you'll soon be able to remember the names of a group of thirty or more people in one go. (Honestly, I've done it!) But nobody expects you to be perfect. If you get a name wrong, apologize, and say you're on it. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them.
4. Repeat the new person's name
Repeat the name out loud (or in your head, at least) immediately after the person has spoken. Look them in the eye and say their name. If that feels weird, explain that it's important to you to learn their names. Ask the next person to wait until you're ready before moving on.
5. Make connections
Memory expert, Tony Buzan, recommends connecting people's names to mental images. For example you might imagine 'Scarlett' having red paint poured over her head. Or 'Jack' might share the name of your nephew - imagine the two Jacks meeting. Our memories prefer things that are silly or funny or rude, so go wild! (This all happens inside your mind where no can see...you never have to tell us what you're thinking!)
Finally, make an effort. We can all say we're rubbish at things, but more often than not this translates as, 'I can't be bothered to get better.' Which is fine if you don't want to spend time on painting or writing or public speaking. That's your choice. But when it comes to winning the trust of your new team, being respected as a worthy leader or fitting in with your new group of friends, I promise you'll get on with people ten times quicker when you say their names.