Building Relationships by Remembering and Using Names

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A friend of mine recently stayed at a new downtown hotel. One of the features of the hotel was an outdoor fire pit. All you had to do was call the front desk and a staff member would come down and light the pit so the guests could enjoy the warmth and ambiance. One afternoon after shopping downtown in the brisk weather, she and some friends decided to have a glass of wine and relax around the fire pit. She called down to the desk, and they said they would send someone down right away.

After waiting at least 30 minutes, she called down again. A little annoyed, she reminded the front desk clerk that it had been 30 minutes since she made her request. The clerk said, “We are so sorry, Mrs. Brown. We will send someone down right away. “

She had just checked in yesterday afternoon, yet the desk clerk was able to call her by name when she called. Whether she actually remembered her name or they had accessed her information from their reservation system wasn’t important. The fact that she used her name made an impression. It made her feel that she wasn’t just a reservation number but a valued guest.

Building rapport and helping others feel important is critical to effective leadership. Dale Carnegie’s sixth Principle for Enhancing Relationships goes like this—

“Remember That a Person’s Name Is To That Person, the Sweetest and Most Important Sound in Any Language.”

The ability to remember names and then use them effectively makes people feel that you are a friend and begin to build a relationship. Even though the clerk apologized for the oversight, using her name in the apology made it personal. It was no longer an off handed comment or something out of a script.


The ability to remember names is a learned skill. Having a great memory helps, but there are exercises and tricks to help you remember a person’s name. And when you use it in conversation or other communications, it brings substance and life to what you say. Repeating a person’s name when you are introduced and again several times in a conversation is one technique for remembering names. Associating the name with something familiar with you, a person’s physical characteristics, or making a rhyme of the name are other methods. Whatever you use, learn how to remember names, and you will set yourself apart as a warm, personable professional. Continue the practice in written communications such as letters, notes and emails. Using a person’s name shows you are focusing your attention on them and that they are important to you and your business.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a freelance writer, blogger, and workplace consultant. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in "Training" magazine, "Training & Development" magazine, "Supervision," "Pulse" and "The Savannah Morning News." You can read her blogs at, and on the web at

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