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Career Coach: How to Remember Names -- Don't I Know You?

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson begins 2010 by providing four invaluable steps in recalling names during networking.

"A person's name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language."

-- Dale Carnegie

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

I've written a lot about networking and how important it is. But making connections and building relationships is hard to do when you can't remember someone's name. Remembering names opens the door to successful relationships.

My 13-year-old daughter worked as a Sky ranger last summer at Soaring Colorado, a zip-line attraction near Durango ( She had to learn and remember at least 30 new names every day. Every time she had contact with someone she used his or her name. Guests at Soaring Colorado are always amazed and impressed that the Sky Rangers can do this. It also makes the guests feel that they have not just had an adventure, but made some friends.

Improve your ability to remember names by following these four steps, which spell out the acronym Clue: C ommit, L isten, U se it, E mbed a link

1. Commit: The first step to remembering people's names is to commit to it. If it's important to you, you'll be able to do it. And if remembering other people's names is not important to you, why should remembering your name be important to them?

2. Listen with focus: Listen to the person's name. If you find a few moments later that you've already forgotten it, say, "I missed your name. Can you give it to me again?" If you still have trouble with it, say, "Would you spell that out for me?"

Often when we meet someone we may think we may never see him again and so we don't invest the effort to memorize the name. Pay attention when someone introduces himself. Make eye contact and make a connection with the person.Take the time and make the effort to remember someone's name when you meet him. Treat him as if he is the most important person in the world during that first conversation and it will be easier for you to remember him if you see him again.

3. Use it: When you hear someone's name use it soon as possible in conversation. Repetition helps engrave the name in your memory. Say the name quietly to yourself a few times.

Say it out loud. Add it to the beginning or ending of your greeting to that person: "It's a pleasure to meet you, Holly" or "Tunde, how nice to meet you."

Associate the name with something someone tells you about himself or herself. To help you remember, introduce him or her to someone else right away using the association. Repeating it out loud, "Jan, the marketing diva," or "Susie, the pastry chef," makes it more real and memorable.

Don't tax your memory. Write notes to yourself at the time or later.

When you get a business card, honor the person like the Asians do by studying his card for a moment. This will also help you create a visual to remember the person's name. Write on the back of the business card. (Don't write on the front of someone's business card. In some cultures it's perceived as defacing their person!)

* Use the name immediately.* Repeat it silently to yourself.* Comment on the name.* Use it occasionally in the conversation without overdoing it.* Use it when leaving. "I've enjoyed speaking with you Paul."* Write it down afterwards.

4. Embed a link with the name: It's hard to learn names by simply hearing them. Our memory works better when images, action and emotion are involved.

Concentrate on forming a clear, detailed impression of the person. Use all your senses to observe people's physical characteristics. The more vivid the impression, the more likely you are to remember them.

Find some clever way to remember a name by associating it with something unique about the person. Here are some ways to embed a link with the name.

Use mnemonic devices or alliteration to help you remember names: Hugo from Hollywood, Kyle who goes the extra mile. Remembering names can be as simple as ABC. When my father-in-law Rex Thompson tried to recall someone's name, he would travel through the alphabet until he remembered the letter the name started with. You could often hear him quietly saying, "A...B... C..."

Create a mind picture that will help the name stick in your mind.

Imagine Graham eating graham crackers.

Picture Jack's smiling face springing out of a Jack-in the box toy.

See Bill paying his bills.

Associating the person's name with an exaggerated, personal or funny image will make it easier to remember.

Try to make an association between the person's face and an image the name suggests. Can you picture a giant peach on the top of Ben Peachey's head?

Today I met a woman named Carol who was wearing a Christmas sweater. I remembered her name by associating her holiday sweater with singing Christmas carols.

Associate the name with a color. I met a girl at a cookie exchange party who had blonde hair. Her name was Amber. I could associate her amber colored hair with her name.

If Robin is wearing a red shirt you can remember his name by associating the color and a phrase -- Robin red breast.

If you are more attuned to sounds, find a quick rhyme for someone's name.

Scuba instructor Dave Brown won't let anyone drown.Claire has pretty hair.Drew is his nephew.Gary is married to Mary.Randy is handy.

Or link the name to a song lyric--Hey Jude (Beatle's tune).

Or link the name to a well known phrase.

Dawn of a new day.No ordinary Joe.Mark my words.

Find out something about the person that can help you remember his name. Perhaps you can associate the name with a profession or hobby.

Lance is a freelance writer.Gregg Greene plays golf and likes to be on the green.

If you are more responsive to sensory feelings, try linking the name to the impression the person makes or to a reaction you have to the person.

Fred looks like he just got out of bed.Lou might have had a few.Bruce Eisenberg leaves me cold.Duane is a pain.Diedre dominates the dialog.Fran Frendt is friendly.

It's tough to build a relationship with someone if you don't know his name. You can't refer him to a job or recommend him to someone. So learn the names of the people you meet.

Everyone wants to feel special. One of the best ways to make people feel important is to remember their name. When you refer to someone by his name you are honoring him with respect. Remembering peoples' names is more than just good manners; it's good business.

Now you have a clue about how to remember names– commit, listen, use it and embed a link.  When you make the effort and make an association with the name, you'll be able to remember it.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson admits she often has trouble remembering names so never hesitate to reintroduce yourself. She'll be presenting her Career Strategies Workshop on Feb.11 and 12 at Savannah College of Art and Design. You can reach her for recruiting, speaking engagements, or career coaching at