The Art of Remembering Names

A few weeks back, I experienced a revelation that I’ve had several times before, but continue to appreciate more and more with passing time and changing circumstance.

I temporarily work part-time at an incredible long-term care facility run by Carmelite nuns.  Yeah, it’s a pretty sweet gig.  There is a certain priest in our diocese who comes to the nursing home every other week to play guitar and sing for and with the residents.  Our residents love when Father comes because his is a spirit that truly radiates the love and peace of Our Lord.  He also has a well-trained and soothing voice to match.  I was fortunate enough, then, to be on duty the other night when he came to play in the front lobby.

What particularly and continually impresses me about this priest, however, is his rare and unmistakable ability to remember people’s names.

Names.  Father remembers them forever after meeting a person only once in passing.  And he uses the names.  He calls our residents and staff by their names each time he addresses them.  It is truly an art form, and it’s caught my attention on several occasions.

Now, I’ve reflected quietly in my own heart and openly with others before about the sheer importance of remembering and using people’s names when speaking with them.  You can find this notion in all sorts of books covering a wide variety of topics.  From the business world to the world of interpersonal relationships, the name-game plays an essential role in succeeding and excelling.  When speaking about personal and professional development in his insanely popular must read, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie emphasizes:

“We should be aware of the magic contained in a name and realize that this single item is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing… and nobody else.  The name sets the individual apart; it makes him or her unique among the others… Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Our names are important to us, it is how we identify ourselves as important and irreplaceable individuals among the multitudes, and Mr. Carnegie insists that we must realize that other people feel the exact same way about their respective names.  If we maximize on this simple yet rare practice of remembering and using the names of people we encounter, we will be much more likely to reach our particular goal in communicating with that person.

But I think there is something about names that lies even deeper than the realm of professional or worldly enterprises.

“The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name” (Isaiah 49:1).

Names are not just important to the person who lives across the street from you, the cashier at the grocery store, your business prospect, or the children you bring forth; names are vitally important to the Godhead.

The Lord calls us by name, He gives us our name, and He does not forget it.  He does not forget us.

The way this priest calls each person he meets by name over and over again without ever forgetting, no matter how long it has been since he has last seen them, illustrates to me in a very concrete way the Heavenly Father’s personal and undivided care for each of His beloved children.

I would be wise to follow his example and work on my memorizing skills.  My desperation to show forth to others the loving care my Father has for me is relentless.  But I’m not very good in this particular arena.  I know I’ve read, in many places, about tools and tricks to remembering people’s names.  But I’ve forgotten what those were (are you sensing a trend like I am?).  I need some assistance.  So I ask you: What method has honestly worked for you when remembering names?  How do you people do it?!  Please share.

Leave a Reply