Career coach the power of using a name – the washington post bp gas prices chicago


It is the one way we can easily get someone’s attention. It is a sign of courtesy and a way of recognizing them. When someone remembers our name after meeting us, we feel respected and more important. It makes a positive and lasting impression on us. To not remember a name, especially when someone has had to repeat it several times, is to make that person feel slighted.

There are many reasons and excuses people give for not remembering names (bad memory, poor listening, not paying attention, self-absorption, age). Perhaps you believe you are “not good” at learning or remembering other’s names. This may be true, but it doesn’t mean you can’t improve.

Make it a commitment. Suppose you start a new job with a number of new faces. What can you do to learn and remember them all? Set goals for how many people you will meet each day to learn their names. When someone tells you their name, listen and repeat it back to them.

Practice. It is okay to say, “Your name is Chuck, right?” They will correct you if you are wrong, and will be flattered if you are right. Colleagues often ask me how I learn names so quickly. I work at it and I practice. I ask them to say their names the way they want them pronounced, and then I try to use their names every time I see them.

Learn and use first names. Use their names every time you see them. Repeating their name in every situation helps you to remember it. Greet them by their name. You can also go up to them and reintroduce yourself since they will generally repeat their name once you have said yours.

Ignore the name tag. For some folks, name tags help. For me, I find they are a crutch. If they exist, they I will keep looking at the name tag and never learn the person’s name. You have to figure out if name tags help or hurt you in learning or using their names.

For difficult names, ask for a pronunciation. Even if you have known someone for a long time, just ask “Have I been saying your name correctly?” This is important to show that their name matters to you. Then, make sure to keep pronouncing it correctly. Sometimes, they may have taken an “English” name to make it easier on others to refer to them (if they are from another country). I have still found that it is important to try to refer to them by their given name since this is the name that means the most to them, and they will appreciate your taking the time to learn how to say it. If you have real trouble understanding their name, ask them to spell it out since this might also help you to remember it.

Remember, people want to be treated as human beings, not objects. Using their name is the fastest and most reliable way of building rapport and creating a good first impression. Everyone has a name — use it to better connect to them. You will notice a difference in your relationships.

Joyce E. A. Russell is the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management. She can be reached at