Being good with names is a skill everyone can benefit from. It makes meeting new friends easier, socializing smoother and people will respect you. As Dale Carnegie puts it, “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” We want doctors to care and remembering our names is one of the easiest steps to show it. People have received job rejection letters over misspelled names. Names are important! They make our daily interactions more pleasant and people will be more likely to remember your name if you remember theirs!
I used to be pretty bad with remembering names. Some would stick while others I would be forgotten within the first few seconds. However with trial and practice, I have used several methods that have helped me remember 95% of the names of people I’ve met, if even only for several minutes. I sat down and brainstormed all the tricks I use for helping me remember names. Hope this helps!
- Commit Yourself - Remembering names is just like any other skill. The more you practice, the better you get. Make a deliberate effort to remembering people’s names. Don’t make excuses of having a bad memory – remembering other people’s names is a conscious action.
- Pay Full Attention: Stop and Listen – The crucial period for remembering a name is within the first 5-10 seconds of hearing it. Concentrate and focus when a person says their name. Mentally repeat the name to yourself a few times. The most common reason for forgetting a name is that people don’t paying attention or were not listening when a person said their name. How can you remember a name if you didn’t even hear it? Treat this first interaction as if they were announcing the winning numbers of a lottery draw. Often, I find paying attention to the introduction of a name the first time is often enough to make me remember their name. Don’t think about your own introduction and how you’ll make a good first impression when somebody is introducing themselves. Remembering their names will be one of the best first impressions you can do.
- Repeat Their Name, Name, Name in your Head – three times usually does the trick
- For Tricky Names – ask for pronunciation - If the name is Tricky or Uncommon – Ask them to pronounce - Very often you’ll hear a name that you can’t make out clearly or a name that you haven’t heard of before. This happens a lot with cultural names. Instead of making a fool out of yourself by butchering their name, ask them to repeat their name slowly or even better yet to spell it out. Again, people aren’t offended if you didn’t catch their name on the first go. They’ll be glad that you took the time to get their name correct. Even for common English names, I find that asking them to spell their name helps me remember them. It can be as simple as clarifying whether the name was Kevin, Calvin or Kelvin.
- Spell out their Name – Is that S-T-U-A-R-T or S-T-E-W-A-R-T?
- Ask for First and Last Name – I’ve been guilty of this, sometimes I ask what’s your name (if I forgot), they’ll say their first name, and then I’ll say, “Sorry, I meant your last name”
- Ask for the story behind Unique Names (nicknames) – How does someone get a name like Sarge? Apparently he was in the army…
- Ask for a nickname (Do they prefer) – Do you prefer Mike or Michael?
- Exaggerate Sounds, Words and Letters of their Name – It’s related to saying their name in your head with a twist. Instead of saying Murray, I might say murRAY in my head, anchoring it more uniquely in my memory.
- Write down their name right away! – One of the easiest tips, especially if you’re in a meeting and you have paper in front of you. Just write down people’s names and where they are sitting, and use it as a cheat sheet.
- Make Visual Associations with the Name - Building upon the concept of remembering a name in multiple ways, mental imagery or silly sounds will help solidify a name. For instance, if you meet a Victoria, you could picture her dressed up in Victorian-era clothes. The more exaggerated and wacky the associations the more likely is it going to stick. If the person has a shared name with a celebrity or another friend, you can look for common associations between the two. Even creating a mental imagery of the two people standing together will help you remember. Picturing your best friend Kevin with the Kevin you just met will create an image you can refer back to if you ever forget their name.
- Associate Name with someone you know – Kevin? Just like your best friend Kevin right?
- Associate Name with someone famous – Justin? He does look like Justin Beiber
- Use their name during conversations – Once you hear their name, repeat it, repeat it, repeat it. Say it to yourself in your head several times. Use it in the conversation to address the person. For instance, if somebody introduces themselves as Sally, you could follow it up with “it’s nice to meet you Sally.” Just the action of saying a name out loud makes it hard to forget. It strengthens your memory of the name through different senses. I guarantee that if you say their name immediately, you will remember their name until at least the conversation is over. It will make the conversation more natural too, but don’t overuse their name either.
- If you forget, admit it and ask again – Sometimes, despite our best efforts we will forget our name and it can be embarrassing. However, you should immediately ask for their name once you forget. The sooner you do, the less awkward it will be. To forget somebody’s name in the first ten minutes is totally acceptable, to not know their name after meeting them multiple times will be a big turn-off. You could say, “Sorry, I’m bad with names and I forget your name, could you repeat it again.” People will actually appreciate your honesty and won’t take any offense to it. In fact, people will be happy that you found them important enough to take the time to find out their name. If you meet the person for a second time and forgot their name, you could say, “I remember your face, but I can’t recall your name.” Admitting what that you don’t know is sincere and people appreciate the honesty.
- Use a Third Party to Help – Hey buddy, I forgot your friend’s name over there, what was it again?
- Eavesdrop for name – look for information on a sheet of paper they’re holding, overhear it in a conversation, look at their name tag
- Substitute a name to stall for time – man, pal, buddy, bro, maam, my friend
- Ask for Contact Information- ask for email and phone number – You can combine this with what’s your last name?
- Write down their name afterwards – After talking to someone, writing down their name will help you recall who they are the next time you meet them.I usually do this after meeting a lot of people I know I might meet again. I will open up a word document or usually a piece of paper will do. I start with the date and location and then attempt to write down the names of the people I met along with a brief description. A sample entry would be, “Welcome BBQ – Paul – shaggy hair, thick glasses, funny, likes tennis.” I try to include a physical description along with some personal details to make it as memorable as possible. It will only take several minutes to do it but the benefits will be far greater than the time spent. Again, just the fact that you’ve added a layer of writing to your memory will solidify your remembering that much more. Furthermore, if you know there’s a chance you’ll be in the same setting again, you can always open up the word document and do a quick scan to refresh your name memories.
- Use Technology to Help You – There are so many technologies that can help you remember names. You can ask for an email or phone number after meeting someone to stay in touch. Social networks like Facebook or Twitter is just another tool that can help you remember someone. Just add them after meeting them and you would have created a names list. You can also extend the conversation on the Internet to further to get to know them. Interacting with people is not limited to face to face time, use whatever means you’re comfortable with.
- Don’t make excuses – Don’t ever think I’ll never meet this person again. A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met!
- Follow up with further meetings – Hey let’s hang out next week…
- If you see them again, and you’ve forgotten, Re-introduce yourself – I usually say, I remember your face and talking to you last time, but I’m horrible with names. My name is xxx, what was yours again?
- Be Genuinely Interested in Them – I have found that showing a genuine interest in other people to be the best way to remembering their names. I never forget the names of people that I find entertaining. I don’t have a hard time remembering someone who did a favor for me. Try to find something interesting and positive in everyone you meet and get to know the person. Build a story around them and it will make remembering that name that much easier.
There are several phases. The initial introduction being the most important and the step that most people neglect. Concentrate on the first few tricks listed. If you do the first few steps well, the rest of the tips will not be necessary. Second part is to prolong the time in the name introduction, enough time for your brain to process. Next is to solidify the name with different associations, whether it be by audio or visual methods. If you’ve forgotten, there are some tricks to draw out a name again. The last few tips are for long term memory.