(This is a reprint of an article I wrote in 2006)
“I’m sorry, what is your name, again?” How often have you had to ask that a few minutes after meeting someone? We all do this. During the actual introduction, our minds are focused on anything but the person we are meeting. We are thinking about what we are going to say to this person. Or, we are overwhelmed by the number of people we are meeting in a short period of time. Or we are asking ourselves, Who else is in the room? When are we going to have a chance to meet the person we came here to meet? Do we look OK for the situation? In short, we are distracted. We are not present. We are not engaged with the person we are talking to.
A client once related a story to me about having had the opportunity to talk with Bill Clinton in a reception line. There were hundreds of people waiting to talk with him, but when she related a sad personal story to him, he was so focused on what she was saying that he had tears in his eyes. She said he spoke to her as though she was the only person in the room. I’ve heard that Ronald Reagan was masterful at this as well.
People feel seen, visible, cared for when you remember their name. Another client, a branch manager in a bank, related a story to me about one of her tellers. Meeting new customers every day, this woman makes it a priority to know their names. When she meets a new customer she writes their name on a post-it note and sticks it on the wall of her work space. She keeps these posted until she remembers the name without needing the reminder. The customers love it! They are so impressed that they are remembered. They feel important and cared for. And, they will most likely remain loyal to that branch forever. What better way is there to improve customer relations than the power of true connection?
Introductions are a wonderful opportunity to practice presence. If we make it a practice to simply slow down enough to really be with the person we are talking to — if we “turn our arrows” out and focus on this person rather than on all our mental chatter; if we become curious about who they are; if we make eye contact and really see them — then we will find that remembering names are no longer an issue for us.
Next time you are introduced to someone, take the time to really be present and remember the person’s name the first time around. Then notice if the quality of your interaction is different.