'Working Wounded': I'm Blanking

DEAR WOUNDED: This sounds really stupid. But I'm in sales and no matter what I do I just can't remember people's names. I think it's starting to hurt me. Help, whatever your name is …

ANSWER: Your e-mail reminded me of the plight of a recent valedictorian at Alcee Fortier Senior High School in New Orleans. Ironically the student with the highest grade point average in the school just can't graduate. It turns out that she failed, for the fifth time, the state's mandatory exit exam and college is in limbo until she passes the test.

And just like that valedictorian, our relationship with a client can receive top grades and we can still lose the sale because of one failed test. And it can be over something as small as forgetting someone's name. I've included strategies to keep the most important names right on the tip of your tongue. For more, check out Diane Darling's book, "Networking Survival Guide" (McGraw Hill, 2003).

Do you care about remembering their name? You've passed this test by writing to me to ask for strategies for remembering someone's name. But I fear that you are the exception and not the rule. I've met many people who just don't care if they get a person's name correct. If you don't think someone's name is important, remember the last time someone who you did a lot of business with forgot yours.

Do you repeat it? This is an easy to overlook, but important step. Say their name right after they tell you what it is. Be sure to give them a chance to correct your pronunciation. I know that many people believe that they can just repeat it in their heads for the same result, but there is something to actually saying a name out loud.

Can you use it in conversation? Have you ever had a conversation with someone you just met who repeats your name in every sentence? I hate it. Then again, repetition can really help so it's a good idea to repeat their name judiciously throughout your conversation.

Can you connect the name to something? You might see a guy named Dan and think of a big fan. Or Sue and think about her blue eyes. OK, these both seem simple and that is the point. You want to find a little trick, association or reference that will be both simple and memorable. Don't expect this to leap immediately to mind, you might have to talk to them for a bit to come up with something that you can link to their name.

Do you write it down? Some people don't really remember something until they write it down. I always try to ask someone for a business card and then jot down something about them to help me remember our conversation.

With so many things on all of our to-do lists it's a wonder that we even remember our own name. Use these tips and you'll get top grades from your clients.

We'd like to hear your strategy for remembering someone's name. I'll give an autographed copy of "Working Wounded: Advice that adds insight to injury" (Warner, 2000) to the best submission. Send your entry, name & address via: http://workingwounded.com or via e-mail: bob@workingwounded.com. Entries must be received by Wednesday (Aug. 3).

Online Ballot and Contest

Here are the results from a recent workingwounded.com/ABCnews.com online ballot:
What is the toughest part of going back to work after having a baby?

       Nothing, it's easy, 6.2 percent
       Being accepted back at work, 7 percent
       Being out of touch with technology, etc., 8.5 percent
       Worrying about your child, 78.1 percent

Winning Strategy

Our winning strategy for going to work after having a baby comes from A.D. in Boston, Mass.:

"Many women who've had a baby learn to do it all for themselves (especially divorced moms). So you learn to not rely on anyone. Unfortunately, the workplace doesn't function this way. People learn and help each other. So if you go back to work after a baby learn to network with people and to ask them for help and support. Don't get isolated, there are many people at work who will be willing to help you out, but only if you ask."

List of the Week

Who is sick here? … Who actually uses sick leave and why

      77 percent who fake an illness only do it on rare occasions.

      49 percent of those who use sick leave take it because they need a break.

      41 percent say their boss knew they really weren't sick.

      22 percent take sick leave to help a sick family member.

Source: Hudson Institute

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, speaker and internationally syndicated columnist. His newest best seller, "GRAY MATTERS: The Workplace Survival Guide" (Wiley, 2004), is a business comic book that trades cynicism for solutions. Ask Bob a question: bob@workingwounded.com or http://graymattersbook.com.

ABCNEWS.com publishes a new Working Wounded column every Friday.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.