People frequently ask me how to remember the names of the people they meet. It seems as though many people forget peoples’ names almost immediately.

Is the adult human brain so defective that it instantly deletes simple information ?

I do not believe so.

An often told story about legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith can help explain how to remember names, thanks to Charlotte Observer sports columnist and author Scott Fowler.

The coach made remembering names a top priority and deflected attention from himself.

Fowler tells this story.

“During recruiting, after one visit, he knew the names not only of your parents, but of your siblings, your teammates, your grandparents, your coaches — everybody,” former Tar Heel Buzz Peterson said. “I asked him once how he did it. He said he just concentrated hard during those few seconds of introductions, when most people are worried about saying their own name instead of listening.”

The concept is simple enough but the execution can be a challenge for many of us. Fortunately, adults have more brain capacity then they use.

So what should we do ?

Make remembering the person’s name a top priority and repeat that name out loud at least three times in five minutes. Make eye contact and use a firm handshake.

Since we are dealing with listening, let’s review some key concepts of effective active listening.

Tremendous amounts of energy are wasted every day because we really do not listen well.

Successful listeners make a commitment to pay attention, concentrate by giving their undivided attention to the individual they are communicating with, and collect the essential information being discussed. Taking notes, recording the conversation, or memorizing important information helps.

Effective listening can give you a significant competitive advantage. It helped The Coach and it can help you.