The most effective leaders are the ones who make you feel like they’re really listening.
Most importantly, they always remember names.
So how can you get better at remembering names?
I learned some secrets to remembering names during my first Dale Carnegie training class last week (I signed up for the eight-week course after hearing Warren Buffet say they “changed [his] life in a big way”). Carnegie passed away in 1955, but his self-improvement courses have trained more than eight million people and are represented in more than 80 countries.
According to my lecturer Bill Lawrence, a lawyer by day, the best way to remember things is to think of the things you know about them in a mental picture — the more exaggerated the image, the easier it is to remember.
This is particularly useful for names.
Carnegie writes in his book “Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business” that “the secret of a good memory is thus the secret of forming diverse and multiple associations with every fact we care to retain.” Our minds are essentially “associate machines” and the reason why it’s hard to remember people’s names is because there’s no meaning behind their name for the listener.
Carnegie’s memory-linking technique is to picture images that sound like a person’s name — and combine it with other things you know about them.
If you meet someone named Laura from Brazil, imagine her with a laurel wreath on her head swimming in the Amazon River.
Similarly one can combine these elements in a ridiculous phrase.
To remember that Mr. O.W. Dolittle sells cars for a living, you can remember the phrase “do little and you won’t succeed in selling cars.” For Mr. Thomas Fischer who works in coal, you can remember the phrase “he fishes for coal orders.” If you meet a scientist name Matt, you can remember him as “the Matt scientist,” which sounds like “the mad scientist.”
Although these exercises may sound silly, Carnegie says they are proven to work.
One of our first exercises in Dale Carnegie’s course was to come up with a story or phrase to help others remember our own names. One girl’s name is Allegra Westin and she asked us to think about her running with her legs on the West Side Highway. Another guy’s name is Marco Rossi and his story included a red (“Rossi” is plural for the color red in Italian) arc resembling the letter “M” (the arc combined with the letter “M” is “Marc-o”).
Also, if you don’t hear someone say their name clearly, always ask again.