The other day I ran into someone who said, “Hey, Jeff—how’s it going?” I hadn’t seen this person in a few months, and I couldn’t remember his name. All I could think to say was “Fine, and how are you doing, chief?”

Chief? I could have called him bud, buddy, dude, guy, sir, or cap’n—any of those generic names that guys use to refer to other guys. (If I run into a woman whose name I don’t remember, I rely on “ma’am” to bail me out.) Eventually I did remember his name and I used it in closing, “Good to see you again, Rich.”

You can get away with forgetting someone’s name if you’re in a casual, social environment. But in professional relationships—specifically when you’re a teacher, a trainer, or a consultant in the computer industry—you’ve got to remember the names of the people you train or support. Why? Because people expect it.

Schoun Regan wrote a TrainingRepublic column titled “Where the Geeks have no name” in which he talks about how insulted students feel when the instructor can’t remember their names. (To read Schoun’s article, follow the link under Related Columns on this page.) Dewet Diener, a TechRepublic passport holder, agreed and sent us this note:

 “I just finished four weeks of instructor-led MCSE training, and I must agree with Schoun Regan on the point he made about remembering your students’ names. At the start of the course, the instructor told us that he wasn’t good at remembering names and also implied that he wasn’t going to put a heck of a lot of effort into changing that. That was fine, I guess, but it’s no excuse.

“The class consisted of total strangers, and within the first two weeks we knew each other by name and knew each others’ strengths. Which just goes to disprove the ‘impossibility’ of getting to know people’s names—quickly.

“This is in stark contrast with one of the [training] company’s sales reps. After our first meeting, he always knew me by sight. Even when I called on the phone and mentioned who I am, he’d immediately remember something he wanted to tell me or the like. That makes a heck of a positive impression on a person—and I sure want to strive to be as impressive as that. Thanks again for hitting the spot there.”
If you’d like to comment on the importance of remembering names, please click the Forums link in the left navigation bar on this page and add your two cents to the discussion. Or follow this link to send me an e-mail.