By Kevin Lightfoot, vice president, Corporate Communications, Xerox
I do have a problem that I’m willing to admit. I’m poor at remembering people’s names.
And this is a terrible problem to have. Fewer things in life help define who we are. Our names could determine our lifelong nickname, our career, and our friends – perhaps even our spouses. Our names can influence our sense of community or our sense of individuality. Fundamentally, our names are part our identity. That is why I feel so terrible when I get someone’s name wrong.
The thing is, I’m good at unique names. It is the familiar or common names that trip me up. My wife and some friends used to believe I purposely got people’s name wrong – just to get an upper hand. Like a neighborhood poker game a few years ago. I was at a table of friendly folks and I kept calling “Mark” by the wrong name. I called him “Marcus,” “Mario,” “Murphy” and I think I even slipped in a “Mercutio” (from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) until he finally got fed up; picked up his chair (he had a bad back) and left, never to return.
My professional contact list is another example of this vexing problem. That list alone has too many colleagues named “Charles.” There is “Alexander Charles” in corporate public relations. Then there is “Charles James” in corporate security. Finally, I also work with “Charles Fred” from The Breakaway Group. And this list doesn’t include my former boss, “Charles Mayer” or “Charlie” Campbell Jr. Now that I think of it, I had a great-uncle “Charlie” who hugged my paternal grandmother goodbye at the train station in 1914 and left to fight in The Great War.
There are dozens self-help books and articles like Jacquelyn Smith’s recent Forbes article, 6 Easy Ways To Remember Someone’s Name and all of them are legitimate, but I’ve arrived at my own method and it is simple enough.
Build a relationship. Talk with them, work with or tackle a problem with them. That’s it.
Fortunately, none of the “Charles” in my world are clients but if they were …
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @lightfootXerox