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On Remembering and Dealing With People's Names

A person’s own name is the single most important word to him/her; it is intimately tied to his/her identity as an individual. How you deal with people’s names can have a profound effect on their impressions of you: Think about the times you’ve felt special when someone you admired addressed you by your name in a sincere tone; or think about the times when you’ve felt belittled when someone negligently called you by the wrong name, or worse, maliciously made fun of your name in front of you.

I’ve always been extremely bad at remembering people’s names, and it’s caused me my fair share of embarrassment during my life. While I lived in Switzerland, I was always amazed at how well people in general could remember names. I don’t know if they train them for it, or if it’s a cultural trait, but many times, for example, I was greeted by name by people I only met briefly weeks before at a party. By then, I could barely remember their faces! Lately I’ve been making an effort to consciously remember people’s names, and it does have a positive effect, both on myself and on other people.