Never Forget Their Names

[May 31, 2018]  I am very bad remembering the names of people I meet for the first time and it’s always been that way.  But if there is one piece of sound advice I can give, it’s that of the people you do meet, you should never forget their names.

Why?  The reason is simple and it goes back to the idea that everyone likes to be noticed and appreciated.  If you cannot remember a person’s name, they may misinterpret your poor memory for disrespect, disregard, or disinterest.

“Forgive you enemies, but never forget their names.” – John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

U.S. President Kennedy gives us another reason not to ever forget people’s names.  He wanted to remember folks so that he knew they could be or might not be trusted in a future political venture.

The names we have, including nicknames and how we say them, are special to us.  We may like or dislike our name but we have embraced it and our personal names have become a part of our psychic; psychologist would say it’s a part of our superego.  Thus, good leaders remember names, the proper pronunciation (especially if it deviates from common acceptance), and any verbal variation special to the user.

If you have difficulty remembering names like I do, employ some method to ensure you never forget it.  I personally take a moment to write the name down on a piece of paper that I always carry in my pocket.  Many trips back to towns where I have friends means that I prepare myself with a list of names that my wife runs through during our travels.

By remembering names we accomplish something important.  We show respect and that we appreciate a person but by doing so we are now able to be inspirational to that person, show that we can listen to what they say, show our thanks, be helpful, and most crucially, we build trust and confidence.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

28 thoughts on “Never Forget Their Names

    1. Scotty Bush

      Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist, makes some admirable points. His protagonist is a real loser in this video.

  1. Billy Kenningston

    Who knows what kind of person we will be or, importantly, what we can become. What we do control mostly is to treat people respectfully and like they actually matter to us. This is, of course, kindness. That is why learning their names is the first step toward achieving that goal.

  2. Watson Bell

    Albert, great story. Thank you for sharing your moment of grade-school terror with us.

  3. Albert Ayer

    I forgot my new teachers name when I was in the second grade. I thought at the time the lady was a witch but I was young and stupid. I never did like her but after getting a swat on the backside for forgetting her name, I never forgot it … Mrs. Joanne B. Nelson, 2nd Grade, Bastrop, Louisiana.

  4. Mr. T.J. Asper

    More articles like this and I will push my High School students into reading this blog. Come to think of it, they already do. I think however that they are too shy to post a response to it so I’ll be encouraging them to do so today. Thank you Brig Gen Satterfield.

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      The more we can educate, mentor, and train young people, the better our society will be. It is now known that 70 percent of young adults aged 18-24 are ineligible to join the US military. How shameful. The reasons are simple, overweight, criminal record, drug use, and can’t pass the entrance exam. Start working with kids early before the next generation can’t even meet minimum standards to join the military.

    2. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      You are both correct. That is why I’m part of a non-profit called Mission Readiness that focuses our efforts on pre-Kindergarten education. Thanks.

  5. Jerome Smith

    Overall, to be a good leader requires considerable social and practical skills that apply to the technical side of the job AND to the people who work there or live there. This takes patience, hard work, and dedication. Little else matters if you cannot CONNECT to the people.

  6. Joe Omerrod

    I too wear a name tag and you would be amazed at those who cannot remember my name. What a pain these people are in the medical community. Let’s start a new trend to remember the names (first and last) of all those we work with.

  7. Mark Evans

    Another article on basic leadership. Thanks Gen Satterfield.

  8. Danny Burkholder

    None of us are perfect and each is born with certain skills that translate good or bad in life. However, we can overcome any lack of inborn assets anytime simply by working on them.

  9. Ronny Fisher

    At first I gave a little chuckle to myself about this topic but reminded myself that only after personally having a hard time at remembering names when I was younger did I stop to think. It took considerable effort and focus to overcome the handicap.

  10. Tony B. Custer

    Gen Satterfield, good article today. Very relevant for all.

  11. Gil Johnson

    Some folks can’t remember faces, some can’t remember people’s names, and some don’t care. But getting along with folks means you remember them and treat them well. There is nothing more basic than this in human endeavors.

  12. Lynn Pitts

    Good blog on a very basic skill that everyone needs. It matters not who you are or even if you hold a leadership position, remembering names is the basics of getting along with people. Respect is only part of it, people will not think you have credibility if you can’t remember their names.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      Fully agree and those who cannot must take the time to learn various methods of doing so. Thanks Gen Satterfield for a cogent article.

  13. Army Captain

    The military provides us with an advantage. We have rank and name on our uniforms. Makes it a little easier but also reinforces the problem for those who have difficulty.

  14. Jonathan B.

    Yes, it is not always easy to remember names. Some of us seem to have a knack for it while others, like me, don’t. There are various methods. The one I use is to try to associate the person’s name you are meeting with something that will jog your memory long enough to write it down later.

  15. Max Foster

    At first, I thought your article today might be about those killed in war or innocents attacked by criminals. I see your point and it is well taken.

    1. Doug Smith

      Same here. Thanks Max for your insight. 😉

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