Why You MUST Remember People’s Names

By Timothy Arends

How many times have you had the embarrassment of seeing someone on the street, in the cafeteria, in class, or elsewhere and been addressed by name–but, for the life of you, you couldn’t remember the other person’s name?

But what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. That may be true of some things, but not of people’s names. A person’s name, as Dale Carnegie wrote, is to them the most important sound in any language. It is their unique identifier. It is a part of them. In the Bible, when Adam was given dominion over all of the animals, he named them all as a way of showing dominance over them.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie has been named in one survey as one of the ten most influential books of all time. The book is divided into various sections. The third section of part two is titled “If you don’t do this, you are headed for trouble.” What is it that you must do? Remember the other person’s name, and facts about him or her. Yes, in one of the most highly regarded books of all time, remembering names was listed very near the top in importance. Dale Carnegie cited several instances throughout history in which the ability to remember people’s names was one of the defining hallmarks of success.

Andrew Carnegie (no relation to Dale Carnegie) was one of the richest men in history and he was known for his ability to remember names. Dale Carnegie related how Andrew Carnegie was battling with his competitor over the railroad sleeping car business and both competitors were in danger of price slashing each other out of business. Finally, Andrew Carnegie sat down with his competitor and clinched the deal. How? Partly by promising to name the manufacturing business and product after his competitor, and thus the famous Pullman Sleeping Car Company came into being.

Dale Carnegie pointed out how libraries and museums owe their richest collections to men and women who could not bear to think that their names might vanish from history. Every college and university has buildings named after their foremost contributors.

Today, many a sales deal is clinched because a salesperson made himself well liked by remembering his or her prospects’ names. Indeed, a salesperson must sell himself as well as his product to others, and there is perhaps no better first step towards selling oneself to people than remembering their names. A waiter or waitress in a restaurant must surely pull in better tips when she can remember the names of the regular patrons. In almost any occupation, the ability to remember names is a decided asset.

In social life, the ability to remember names is just as important. Imagine meeting someone at a party, seeing him later in a cafeteria, and not only remembering his name but being able to bring up what was discussed earlier and use it as a basis for new conversation. This surely would leave a very favorable impression upon the other person. Imagine meeting in attractive woman for the first time, seeing her at the park later and remembering her name–then resuming an earlier conversation!

Get into the habit of making a real effort to remember the names of those you meet. It will open up to you new worlds of success and popularity.