The Art of Remembering Names

The Art of Remembering Names

The Sweetest Sound in Any Language

Dale Carnegie’s classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” is one of the most popular books on people skills. Here is an excerpt of his discussions on the importance of remembering names.

… a person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on earth put together. Remember that name and call it easily, and you have paid a subtle and very effective compliment. But forget it or misspell it – and you have placed yourself at a sharp disadvantage.

… one of the simplest, most obvious and most important ways of gaining good will was by remembering names and making people feel important – yet how many of us do it?

How Napoléon III Could Remember Names

Remembering Names - Recalling and Repeating Names Napoleon the Third, Emperor of France and nephew of the great Napoleon, boasted that in spite of all his royal duties he could remember the name of every person he met.

His technique? Simple. If he didn’t hear the name distinctly, he said, “So sorry. I didn’t get the name clearly.” Then, if it was an unusual name, he would say, “How is it spelled?”

During the conversation, he took the trouble to repeat the name several times, and tried to associate it in his mind with the person’s features, expression and general appearance.

If the person was someone of importance, Napoleon went to even further pains. As soon as His Royal Highness was alone, he wrote the name down on a piece of paper, looked at it, concentrated on it, fixed it securely in his mind, and then tore up the paper. In this way, he gained an eye impression of the name as well as an ear impression.

The 5R Technique for Remembering Names

Here are five simple tips that can help you remember names. For an example, suppose that you attend an informal gathering of professionals from the financial industry; Renuka is one of the attendees.

  1. Remembering Names - An important social skill Resolve to remember. Habitually, you fail to remember names because you do not make a conscious effort at it. When a person states his/her name, by reflex you reply with a “nice to meet you” while your mind is possibly busy judging the person’s appearance or processing some other information. Consequently, your short-term memory registers the person’s name briefly and discards it before long. Commit to pay attention to the person’s name and deposit it in your longer-term memory.
  2. Review. Ask for a spelling of the person’s name. If required, ask the spelling of how the person’s name is pronounced. For instance, Renuka is pronounced Rae-nu-ka — the ‘e’ is pronounced ‘ae’ as in aerospace. Additionally, note that Renuka sounds like Rebecca.
  3. Relate. Associate the person’s name with somebody you may previously know. Suppose that Renuka states she grew up in Hyderabad, India. Then, you recall that your former colleague, Pavan is from the same city too. You can say, “Renuka, my previous project manager, Pavan, is from Hyderabad too. He spoke often of the Museum of Clocks there. His wife had prepared ethnic food for me; it was hot and spicy.”
  4. Remembering Names - Personality Development Repeat. During your conversations, state the person’s name as frequently as appropriate: “Renuka, what are your thoughts,” or,” that is an interesting observation, Renuka,” or, “thank you for your time, Renuka.”
  5. Record. Following your conversation, step aside if possible and record the person’s name along with a few other details to help capture an impression of the person. For instance, record “Renuka. Sounds like Rebecca. Grew up in Hyderabad, India — same city as Pavan. Black-coloured Mercedes Benz Coupe. MBA in finance from Columbia University. Risk analyst at American Express.”

Concluding Thoughts

Remembering Names - Creating Positive Impressions Dale Carnegie asserts, “A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Positive impressions are invaluable. Remembering names is an important social skill — mastering this skill can offer a distinct advantage in your business and personal lives. The secret to remembering names is to make an extra effort to review, relate, repeat and record the names and associations of people for easier recall.


  1. Ananth L.S. says

    The article is interesting at gives a practical approach for remembering the names. Infact I have great problem of remembering names even in my workplace. I will try to implement the technicque. Thank you.

  2. says

    Thank you Nagesh Belludi for reminding me how important it is to remember names. I have gotten myself in the habit of forgetting peoples names.
    It is very important to remember peoples names. So today is a good day to start – refresh button in my brain is on and I will leave it on! Again, thank you Nagesh!

  3. Luis Angel says

    Definitely associating someone’s name with their face will help you remember their name much more easily. Make sure to review though. That is the critical step to seeing that individual again 3 months later and recalling their name accurately.

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