Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 9;   March 3, 2004: Names and Faces

Names and Faces

by

Most of us feel recognized, respected, and acknowledged when others use our names. And many of us have difficulty remembering the names of others, especially those we don't know well. How can we get better at connecting names and faces?

Many of us have trouble associating names and faces, especially when we're meeting lots of new people at once. Conferences, visits to remote sites, new jobs and assuming responsibility for new organizations are situations likely to surface this problem.

Mascot in duck costumeOne helpful technique for remembering names is the mnemonic. A mnemonic is a device for associating two concepts. For those who have difficulty remembering what a mnemonic is, here's a mnemonic for "mnemonic:" Memorization's Not Easy; Memory Often Needs Initial Cues.

As another example, how do you remember which way to change the clock when going on or off Daylight Savings Time? Many of us use the mnemonic "Spring Forward, Fall Back." Of course, this doesn't work for Australians. They do change the clock the same way for the same seasons, but Australians call Fall Autumn, and "Spring forward, Autumn back" just doesn't work.

To remember the name of someone you're meeting for the first time, anchor the name using the RUMM method: Repeat, Use, and Make a Mnemonic.

To remember the name
of someone you just met,
repeat it, use it, and
make a mnemonic
Repeat
Respond to the name with "Hello, Bill" (taking care to substitute the person's actual name for "Bill").
Use
Say something to the person immediately, using the name you just learned: "Bill, you're working on Metronome, as I recall. Was that your team that saved our necks last month?"
Make a Mnemonic
Create a visual or auditory image that connects the person's face to the name. Imagine Bill, for example, in a Donald Duck outfit, complete with yellow bill.

Here are some other techniques that will help people in your organization remember each other's names better.

Create an intranet album
Create a photo album for your department and post it on your company's intranet. If you aren't in a position to create a department photo album, create a personal Web site and put your own photo there. If you can't do that, tack a photo of yourself on your door. See "Make a Project Family Album," Point Lookout for May 2, 2001.
Use the names of people you know
Too many of us avoid using names, even when we're sure of them. Make a point of using the names of people you know. If we all did this, we'd have a better chance of overhearing the names of people we're less sure of.
Practice recovering from mistakes
Fear of using the wrong name, or mispronouncing the right one, are two reasons why we don't use people's names. Look upon uncertainty as an opportunity to practice recovering from mistakes, and to graciously ask forgiveness. See "Demanding Forgiveness," Point Lookout for June 18, 2003.
Introduce yourself
When you meet someone you don't recognize, introduce yourself. Sometimes we avoid this kind of introduction out of fear that we've met before. See "Practice mistakes" above.

Some of us never forget a face. Some never forget a name. Remembering either one doesn't do much good unless you can connect one to the other. Go to top Top  Next issue: Outsourcing Each Other's Kids  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

Reader Comments

Anonymous
Thanks for the weekly Point Lookout — it always provides an insightful and interesting read.
Your story of the forgotten names reminded me of a trick used by a friend of mine. He asks "How do you pronounce your family name?" This usually works, especially in Asia (I'm based in Beijing) but recently when he asked the question he received a puzzled look and the reply "I pronounce my family name as Smith."
Regards.

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenLsmgkhEsUfDwidhtner@ChacGRYMQbGJGdMIIBbUoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Horses in a corralCorrales Mentales
Perhaps you've achieved every goal you've ever set yourself, but if you're like most of us, some important goals have remained elusive. Maybe you had bad luck, or you weren't in the right place at the right time. But it's just possible that you got in your own way. Getting out of your own way can help make things happen.
A lunar eclipseMaking Meaning
When we see or hear the goings-on around us, we interpret them to make meaning and significance. Some interpretations are thoughtful, but most are almost instantaneous. Since the instantaneous ones are sometimes goofy or dangerous, here's a look at how we make interpretations.
The Bay of Whales off the Ross Ice Shelf, AntarcticaHow to Make Good Guesses: Strategy
Making good guesses — guessing right — is often regarded as a talent that cannot be taught. Like most things, it probably does take talent to be among the first rank of those who make conjectures. But being in the second rank is pretty good, too, and we can learn how to do that.
An actual deck chair recovered from the sunken liner TitanicThe Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Obvious Waste
Among the most futile and irrelevant actions ever taken in crisis is rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic, which, of course, never actually happened. But in the workplace, we engage in activities just as futile and irrelevant, often outside our awareness. Recognition is the first step to prevention.
A map of the Internet ca. January 2005Intentionally Unintentional Learning
Intentional learning is learning we undertake by choice, usually with specific goals. When we're open to learning not only from those goals, but also from whatever we happen upon, what we learn can have far greater impact.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Prof. Tom PettigrewComing February 21: The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
Daffodils of the variety Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrendCEpsCdQoHbhiDpYner@ChacCcQaeMjLNWWdBriwoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around.
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.