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Rena Matthews on Getting Names Right

My name is Rena Matthews and I work in a small firm in California named ORI Consulting. I thought that I would share a few of the tricks that I don’t usually mention out loud but that have served me well in connecting with people and overcoming my own lack of memory for names and faces.

Lesson Learned – Get the names right: This applies on many fronts. When you mispronounce someone’s name it can be perceived as an indicator of cultural insensitivity or distance and when you can’t remember someone you’ve met, it can be perceived as lack of interest in that person.

Cool Trick – Try Voicemail: When you know you are going to meet someone with a unique name, call ahead after hours and often you can get the correct pronunciation off of her or his voicemail message. Be prepared with a ready question though just in case she or he is working late and don’t try this early in the morning just in case you unexpectedly have a home number.

Cool Trick – Create a Cast of Characters: I carry a small notebook with me everywhere and the first page for any project includes the cast of characters. I fill in as many as I know before setting out for a meeting or starting off on a project. I’ll include the full name and a few words to jog my memory about their position or background. I’ll add to it throughout a project, fleshing out my cast as needed.

Cool Trick – Create a Seating Chart: Whenever I’m in a meeting, I sketch a quick seating chart on the left of my notebook and fill in names as they are offered if there are no nametags or tents. But I still make the chart even if there are name tents provided, so that I have it for reference later. On the chart I’ll note the person’s name, and what she or he looked like. Then, on the other side, I’ll take notes using initials to refer to key points from each person.

Cool Trick – Create Your Own Shorthand: I’m not so good with names and faces and remembering who is who. I have to work at it. I used to work in a restaurant where OWB meant you wanted eggs over easy with wheat toast and bacon on the side. The wait staff always wrote in that order – first eggs, then bread, then sides. I do the same now with characteristics for my cast of characters and seating charts – Hair color, Skin color, Gender, Build. I’m a BWFL myself. Just the act of writing it down, while saying the person’s name to myself, helps me to remember what someone looks like. And the shorthand notes for later don’t hurt either.

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1 comment

  • Cynthia Vinson · July 25, 2011 at 8:06 am

    I am horrible at remembering names/faces. I’m definitely going to try out a couple of these tricks!
    Thanks for sharing!


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