Besides my glorious head of hair and semi-decent grasp of French, I get complimented on my ability to remember names. I never really gave it much thought, because it’s a skill I’ve had since I was young. But as I’ve entered my professional career, I have come to appreciate my skill more and more. It’s no secret that remembering names is the fastest way to build trust and rapport. Those of us have the skill use it to build relationships that propel our personal and profesional lives. Those that don’t have it meanwhile, chalk it up as not being one of their skills or just being “bad at names.” But the truth is anyone can be ridiculously good at remembering names.
I’d like to share two stories from my childhood, two stories that intertwine my love of sports and communication.
I grew up with soccer as my first language Not really, but it was always on the television. My father religiously follwed (and still does) Chivas, Mexico’s most popular team. I spent many years in front of a television with my dad watching numerous soccer games. I loved it.
We grew up in a modest household with only one TV and a few Spanish channels. So when soccer wasn’t on the television, we were watching Mexican telenovelas. As a child in the early 90’s, I didn’t have an iPhone or kindle to keep me entertained. Furthermore, my mother only let us play Super Nintendo on the weekends. However, on the eve of the 1994 World Cup, my dad brought me a magazine that would change my life. It was the official guide to that summer’s World Cup. It was filled with vibrant pictures and descriptions of every team. Page after page was littered with rosters, statistics and information on all 24 participating nations. With no other form of entertainement, I would read this magazine religiously cover to cover, every night until the pages literally began to fall out.
As the months progressed I would see the players on television that I had read about and began to name them to my dad. Impressed, my father began quizzing me on other players, asking me who so and so played for or who was #9 for this team, etc. Eventually my uncles and family friends began quizzing me at parties or events. I remember as a 7 year old stumping grown men on team rosters and statictics. I hadn’t just memoreized a list, I was able to put context behind the players and walk you through their trajectory. It was then and there that my family procalimed that I’d be a successful lawyer. I had other ideas and proudly proclaimed that I’d be a successful kangaroo. And so years of underachievement began. But that’s another story…
Fast forward about eight years and my new obsession had become American Football. I still loved soccer, but soccer was like an ex girlfriend with whom I had still remained close friends with.
I was obsessed with the Madden and NCAA Football games. I couldn’t wait to play the newest versions year in and year out. At the time though, I didn’t work and at 14, I couldn’t drive to retail to pick them up. However, I lived a mile or so away from a Blockbuster (remember those?) So when NCAA 2003 (and 2004, and 2005) came out, I literally called ahead, had Blockbuster reserve it, and then ran to Blockbuster. I was the happiest kid alive. I arrived to the store some July morning in 2002, sweaty and out of breath, but I had the game.
Part of the appeal of the the NCAA game was the realism. But it didn;t have roster names, because unless you’re Cam Newton or Auburn, you’re not getting paid. As such, the rosters had “QB #5” as a name instead of the student-athlete’s name. So on my way back from Blockbuster, I picked up on of those College Football guides that has the projected starters for at bthe time, all 117 schools. So before I even played one game of NCAA 2005, I literally sat on my bed and manually entered name after name after name of all the projected starters for most teams. Then, If I wanted to get deeper, I would print off a teams complete roster from the internet and get back to importing names. Soon, it became tedious to look back and forth between the magazine and the TV screen, so I would hold like 10 names at once and ramble them off. Eventually I could hold more and more names.
Eventually my NCAA games were loaded with the real names of players.
So how did all this contribute to me becoming really good at names? Obviously, it was the effort. I made an effort to remember names. I made an effort to practice the names. Sure they may have been soccer ot football players, but that effort and disciple translated very well to my professional life. It frustrates me when people say they’re bad at names. If you sincerely practice and commit yourself to knowing someone’s name, you will. Like anything in life, it takes practice and repetition. Wheever I meet someone new, I make sure to commit their name to memory. Here’s what works for me.
After I meet them, I always say their name back to them. It helps me practice and confirms to them that I heard it correctly. I then say the name in my head a few times. During the course of our conversation, I’ll make sure to use their name at least twice. “Jamie, do you watch the EPL? Jamie, I completely agree with you, Michael Owen was a very under-appreciated player at Liverpool.” By the time the conversation with my new friend is over, I have said their name at least 5 times mentally and at least 4 times in conversation. Boom.
Anyone can be good at remembering names. It just takes effort and practice. You already know the names of your favorite athletes and Glee stars. Why don’t you put the same effort into remembering the names of all the amazing people you meet da in, and day out?