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How to Remember People’s Names

note showing Hello My Name Is
Artur Szczybylo

Some people believe they’re just bad at remembering names, or they blame it on their age. But anyone can improve this skill. And believe us, it’s an excellent skill to have!

Ready to impress those around you? Then read on to learn some of our name savvy tricks.

Put in the Effort

Part of the reason we forget names so quickly is that we don’t try that hard. We’re thinking about the notifications on our phone, what’s on our to-do list, what we’re going to order for lunch, and so on. It’s hard to practice mindfulness, the art of being present in the here and now.

But making a conscious effort to learn people’s names will go a long way. One study talks about how our brain is activated when we hear our name; it makes us feel important.

So take the time and let those around you know they are valued.

Repeat, And Repeat Again

Repetition is key to committing something new to memory. The more times you use a name, the more quickly you’ll be able to recall it.

Try using a new name immediately after hearing it, such as “It’s so nice to meet you, Jack.” Then repeat it in your head 3-5 times. Include it in the conversation a couple more times, if it seems natural. And always end the conversation with their name, such as “Hope to see you again, Jack.”

Consider writing down their name after the conversation, making a few bullet points about what as discussed.

Create Associations

Have you ever met someone who shared the same name as a family member? You were probably able to remember that name right? That’s because forming associations makes us more likely to remember new details.

If there’s not an immediate association that comes to mind, try rhyming the new name, or using a descriptive adjective. Examples can include Slim Jim, Laughing Larry, Mischievous Mary, Sweet Pete. Even if it seems silly, believe us—it’ll work.

If you’re leading a workshop or class and have to learn multiple names, try writing down what each person is wearing. This will only help with one-day events since everyone’s outfit will be different next time you see them. But it can help make quick associations while you go around the room. Samantha—red shirt, black glasses; Tom—blue tie, jeans. Then when you need to call on someone, you can glance down at your list to help jog your memory.

Pay Attention to Details

The more closely you pay attention to someone, the more likely you’ll remember them, including their name. Focus on their eye color, tone of voice, hairstyle, if there’s space between their front teeth, the list goes on.

Imagine you’re narrating the description in your head: Susie has red hair, Susie has green eyes, Susie has a sweet voice. Honing in on the person’s specific characteristics will help imprint them in your memory.

Navigating Unique Names

If you come across a unique name that is difficult to pronounce, ask the person to spell it out. Thinking through the letters can help you visualize it. If the name is pronounced differently than how it is spelled, imagine it in your head how it sounds.

It’s fine to ask someone to repeat their name twice, but after that find a way to have them write it down. Perhaps ask for their business card. It’s also common to hand over your phone for someone to type in their details, that way you can ensure you get the spelling correctly.

Commenting on the name can help, too. You can say, “That’s such a pretty name. Where does it come from?” Learning the history behind a unique name can help bring it to life, ensuring you won’t forget it.

As you learn to develop and practice these skills, mastering new names will become easier. Just remember to pay attention, focus on the details, and repeat the new name as much as possible. People will be grateful for your efforts.

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »
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