One's Name is Like Music to Their Ears

Monday, June 03, 2013   by: Penny TremblayI was reading through evaluations from a recent “Workplace Relationships” seminar that I delivered to the support staff at Lambton College in Sarnia. One participant wrote “I wanted to learn how she remembered all of our names”. I love to read good feedback, especially when it concerns ways that I can improve or things that really stood out for participants. Because of this, I have learned to value feedback and leverage it as a way to make my programs better each time I deliver them.

This brief article will teach you how to remember people’s names and the benefits of using one’s name in conversation.

During a full-day seminar, I often make time first thing in the morning for a round of introductions so that I can get acquainted with my students. I ask them to tell me their name and something about the topic of the day—perhaps what skills they already have, or what they want to learn. After everyone has introduced themselves, I go back through all of their names, repeating each name out loud to make sure that I have remembered each person correctly. Participants get so excited that I am able to remember so many names in such a short period of time, even in groups of 50-60 attendees or more.

Later, during the “Active Listening” section of my presentation, I refer to my morning ritual of going around the room during the brief introduction process, and then ask people how they felt having their name remembered. Their responses are “important”, “valued”, “like you really care”, “that you are present”, and that they have felt “an immediate connection”.

The lesson to take away from this is the importance of listening with laser-like focus when someone is talking, and restating that person’s name or another key piece of information that makes them realize you were listening. The result of remembering and using your listeners’ names is an instant rapport builder, and a good foundation for great relationships!

People sometimes ask me how I do it. Here’s how:

Step 1: Actively listen for the name of the person you are addressing, and repeat it either to yourself or out loud. We often completely miss names because we aren’t focused on hearing them. If you miss it, ask for it again. People will be glad that you are interested enough to get it right. If it’s an unusual name, pronounce it with them, so that they can help you understand it and feel confident to say it out loud.

Step 2: Associate the name with someone or something that you can easily remember. Look for ways to match up the person’s appearance, expressions and features with their name. Here are a few examples:

Name: Suzanne

Association: I have a cousin Suzanne with the same hair colour.

Name: Chris

Association: The compassion in his conversation reminds me of Christ.

Name: Tina

Association: Her tidy appearance makes me think of a “tiny Tina”.

Name: Marcia

Association: Soft-spoken and sweet like a marshmallow—Marcia.

Name: Rick

Association: Rich Rick—rich in good morale and respect from his colleagues.

Name: Vicky

Association: Her V-neck sweater reminds me of her first letter.

That’s it! That’s my technique. The power of connection and persuasion can be found in something as simple as using a person’s name. Just look at local monuments, highways, bridges and buildings; they are named after people to honour their legacies.

In my life, I have learned that someone’s name is like music to their ears. So use people’s names often in conversations with them, and they will open up with interest to what you have to say and appreciate your song, whatever that might be—in sales, service and friendship, or even in meeting someone for the first time.

In the words of Dale Carnegie, the famous developer of self-improvement and success programs and the bestselling author of How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), “A man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Pay attention to names, practice repeating them, and use them in conversation. You will find gold here if you dig, and you will become rich in good relationships.


Dedicated to Cindy Harness of Lambton College in Sarnia, Ontario for inspiring this article with her curiosity about how to remember names, and her courage to write it on my evaluation form.
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