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It's happened to all of us. We meet someone, shake hands, talk for a moment, and then the moment of truth comes-another friend happens by, they approach us, look expectantly at you for an introduction, and it's gone. The name is out of your mind, and you're trapped.

Not a fun experience. But in today's fast-paced world, it happens a lot. Nothing makes us look more shallow or insincere than not remembering names. Luckily, there are several proven techniques and tricks to help you avoid that embarrassing situation from now on.

First of all, it's important to listen. Too often, in a world full of sound bites and an increase in telephones, email and chat rooms, we just don't take advantage of the face-to-face encounter. We don't listen long enough or hard enough, and it's too easy to let the information flow into one ear and out the other side, never to take hold in our minds. So learn to listen. It takes effort. It's not just hearing. It's hearing and internalizing. Good listeners rarely forget names. Fortunately for the rest of us, there are other tricks that you can employ while you learn to listen better. Some of these can be used on their own, and others can be combined for an all-around name-remembering arsenal:

· Make eye contact. When meeting someone, really look at them. Look them in the eye and smile.
· Say their name aloud. Upon hearing their name, use it immediately in a sentence. The most common and appropriate sentence would be something like, "It's a pleasure to meet you, John." We often say it's a pleasure to meet someone, but we rarely repeat their name aloud. And then, in the moment we most need the name to be on the tip of our tongue, it is nowhere to be found. Incidentally, people really like to hear their name. It makes them feel special and like you're really connecting with them. This is a good impression to give them, whether at a business function, sales meeting or Friday night dance party.
· Really look at their face. No, I don't mean stare at them until they think they have something hanging out of their nose. With practice, you can become an expert at really seeing someone and observing their appearance in a few seconds. This takes practice, and can be something fun to do with a friend or spouse. Look at a person in a magazine for a few seconds (as long as you would look at someone upon meeting them for the first time). Then give your partner or friend the picture and try to describe the person in detail. What color eyes did they have? Were they wearing jewelry? Did they have a space between their front teeth? What color and style of hair? Bushy eyebrows? Think of every detail you can recall. When you get to the point where you can name at least ten things about the person in the picture, you're doing well.
· Association is a memory tool that works amazingly well in many situations. For names it can sometimes be harder, but you can still make it work for you. When meeting someone, notice something unique about their face or their clothing. Is the woman you just met wearing large, blue saucer-shaped earrings? Does the man talking to you have a large mole below his left nostril? These unique facial features or items of clothing/jewelry can become "hooks" that can help you remember names. Take the woman with the saucer-shaped earrings. Her name is Holly Morgan. Quickly picture in your mind items that will remind you of her name. For instance, Holly is easy. Picture a sprig of Christmas holly, complete with the waxy red berries in the center of two dark-green leaves. Take the hook you memorized (her saucer-shaped earrings), and "hang" Holly on this hook. Think of a sprig of holly on a blue plate, as if it were a garnish. For the last name, Morgan, think of something that will remind you of this name. You could think of a horse, for instance, or your house, because you have a "mortgage." It doesn't have to rhyme, but can be a word that would lead you to the correct name. If you used your hooks to remember this woman's name and came up with Holly Mortgage, you would know that was not right. Mortgage could naturally lead you to Morgan. So picture a blue plate (her earring), garnished with a holly sprig, and a nice, fat house with a dollar bill on it, sitting in the middle of the plate, as if you were going to eat it. Sound ridiculous? Good, because you will be more likely to remember something wild and bizarre. You look at her, smile, and shake hands. An hour later, you bump into her again at the bar, and as soon as you see her blue earrings, you see the holly and the house (mortgage), and will be able to recall her name is Holly Morgan. By this time, she will probably have forgotten yours, but you won't be the embarrassed one!

Sound difficult? It's really not that hard, it just takes practice. Start to really see people. Repeat their name as soon as you hear it. Notice things about them. That alone may be enough to help you remember their names. If not, use the hooks and come up with items that sound like their name. You will get better as you try it out. There's no need to come up blank again!