“I’m good with faces, but I never remember names.”  How many times have you heard someone say this?  Have you said it yourself?  If so, you’re missing a critical opportunity to make people feel special and to create an immediate sense of familiarity and warmth. 

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Make Friends and Influence People, said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  What should you do if you have trouble remembering names?  Here are five ways to make it easier.

Say Their Name Back to Them Immediately

Most people shake hands when they are introduced in a professional setting.  When this happens, take the opportunity to say the person’s name back to them immediately.  Let’s say you were just introduced to Juanita.  When she shakes your hand, repeat back, “It’s so nice to meet you, Juanita.”  By using the name immediately, you’re more likely to cement it into your mind.  You’ll also be able to be corrected early on if you get the name wrong or mispronounce it.  It’s much better to be immediately corrected than to learn weeks or months later that you’ve been calling someone by the wrong name.

Not only should you repeat the person’s name after you meet them, but you should also say it again when you part ways.  “It was so nice meeting you Shantok,” will solidify the name in your head, as you’ve now said it at least twice. 

Find a Celebrity to Associate with Them

Let’s say you just met Rachel.  After you’ve said her name back to her, imagine her as Rachel McAdams, Rachel Hunter or Rachel the character from “Friends.”  Your association doesn’t just have to be actors.  Let’s say you meet someone named John.  You could associate the name with John Lennon, John the Baptist from the Bible, or your Uncle John.  By associating the person you met with a famous name or familiar person, you’re more likely to remember it when you meet again.

Create a Rhyme

Another technique for remembering names is to create a rhyme.  If you’ve met a tall man named Shawn, think to yourself, “Shawn, Shawn is really long.”  If you’ve met Yvette, try, “Yvette is brunette.”  Rhymes can help you associate a name when you see a face, particularly if it relates to a physical characteristic. 

Write it Down

As soon as you’re able to, write down the name in pen.  By writing the name in your handwriting, you’re more likely to remember it than if you type it out or try to remember it without noting it in a tangible form. 

Focus

Ron White, the two-time winner of the US Memory Championship, nailed it on the head when he said, “A major reason you don’t recall names is [that] you weren’t listening. Someone says their name and two seconds later you don’t know it. This is not a memory problem. It is a focus problem.”  Be sure to focus on the person that you’re meeting.  Before you enter the conversation, remind yourself that remembering names is important, and focus on the name as soon as you hear it. 

Remembering names is a skill that can be learned.  By practicing the techniques above, you’ll create an automatic sense of intimacy and familiarity, which, in turn, will make people like you more.