Vail Daily column: What’s in a name? |

Vail Daily column: What’s in a name?

Michael Norton
Vail, CO Colorado

Well for some people … everything!

If names are that important to so many of us, why is that we have such a hard time remembering someone’s name? And are there any techniques or skills that we can develop that can help us not to forget the person’s name that we were introduced to only a few moments ago?

This was an actual email I received recently from a friend in the community. She was attending many graduation parties and as she was being introduced to new people at each party she worked hard at jogging her memory, but she was only able to recall a few of the names. The faces all seemed familiar enough, she knew that she had met them before, but just struggled with their names.

She also indicated that this had been a noticeable problem at work, at church, and in other settings. Well her email was not the first one that I received regarding the ‘remembering names’ dilemma so I thought I would share some ideas and tactics that I have learned or developed that have helped me over the years.

The first thing I wish to share is more of a philosophy than a tactic, but once I internalized this concept it made a huge difference in my ability to remember names and associate names with faces. It is almost too simple and that is why it is so easily over looked or taken for granted. The first thing you have to do is “want” to remember their name. Too often we show up at functions and we are so focused on telling people our own names and sharing our own stories that we have made it all about “us” instead of them.

There is an old saying that goes like this, “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care…about them.” When you put the other person first, sincerely put them first, you will have a much better shot at remembering their name. And as I said in the opening line, for some people their name is everything, maybe even the most important word in the world.

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Tactically there are some things you can do as well. Some of us learn through auditory skills, and others are better at visual associations.

If you are an auditory learner who does well by listening, one of the techniques that is effective is repeating the person’s name the minute they introduce themselves. If you are introduced to Mary, simply say something back immediately like, “Mary, it is a pleasure to meet you.” Follow that up with two or three questions about Mary and always include her name. “Have you lived in the area long Mary?” or “Mary, what brought you to the event this evening?” If you can hear yourself say the name out loud a few times you will have a better chance at remembering her name in the future.

I am a very visual person and so for me this is a technique I use. Since I am often at functions where people have name badges on or stickers with a hand written name on their shirt or jacket, it makes it easy. But when there is no name tag, I actually pretend that there is. The minute they tell me there name I immediately imagine a name tag on their chest or lapel. I visualize it in my mind and it sticks. And if I am in a meeting or it is convenient to write their name down, seeing their name on paper is also a tremendous visual reminder. You will be amazed how much this helps. You may even choose to send a thank you card or ‘nice to meet you’ email which forces you to write down their name when asking them for their email or contact information. Many times when people ask me for my name or contact information they actually enter the information into their phone while we are still together.

We all love to hear our name called. So if we can get better at remembering names just imagine how much better the people around us will feel when we have remembered them from an initial meeting at a gathering or party.

How do you remember names? I would love to hear all about your techniques at and together let’s go out and make this a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.