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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to remember people's names

My friend Devin recently told me a random tip about how to remember names. It's not flashy or clever, but it works like a charm: If a new person tells you his or her name, picture someone else you know with the same name.

For example, the other day, we were hanging out at the playground, and my friend introduced me to her newborn baby, Jack. I immediately pictured this handsome fellow. Now I'll never forget it.

(The catch: It only works with common names. Otherwise you're on your own:)

How do you remember names? Any other good tricks?

P.S. How to introduce someone, and how to do anything.

(Photo by The Sartorialist)

45 comments:

Christie. said...

The usual trick, I believe, is to repeat their name back to them as soon as they've told you. I find I almost always have to ask them to repeat their name, but the other person usually ends up asking me to repeat my name too.

What's really awkward is when you get past the point of it being acceptable to ask their name. There are a few Mums at my daughter's school and we always do the polite chat/wave hello, and it's gone way past that window of opportunity where I can say 'Actually, I didn't catch your name'.

Erin Harwood said...

Ah! This just might work. My poor memory with names leads to too many embarrassing moments that I can't really afford in my line of work (fundraising for nonprofits!). Thanks for sharing. I'm going to try this.

Bethany said...

I always repeat the name back to the person. Instead of just "nice to meet you", I say "nice to meet you, Jack".

I also heard what (I hope) was a joke - When you've gone long past that point where you can still admit to not catching their name, you ask point blank what their name is - when they respond with their first name (and a quizzical look), you say "Oh no! I meant your last name". Seems clever, but I don't think I'd be brave enough to try :).

Kellyn said...

Um, my name is Kellyn. Good luck with that, new people :)

holtkamp said...

Thanks for the tip Bethany ^ !!! I just barely found out my neighbors name after a year. I'll have to try that next time.

holtkamp said...

Thanks for the tip Bethany ^ !!! I just barely found out my neighbors name after a year. I'll have to try that next time.

Diana said...

Oh yeah, that is a great way. I generally don't remember names because I don't pay attention when someone tells me their name. So now that I know that about myself I have made a point to look that person in the eye, and say, 'So good to meet you (insert name)' and I almost always remember.

Nina Leung said...

The name repeat is the way to go. That and a concentrated examination of their face. When I taught high school, I would have 150 kids names and faces to remember and I needed to do it quick. My trick was to have them place their name on a card on their desk and while they were working I would walk among them, look at the name and memorize distinctive characteristics about their face (long eyelashes, chin indention, etc). I would even sometimes draw people's faces (like a caricature) and that helps too. That's really only when you need to remember a lot of names!

Erin said...

Not actually too helpful--but a funny clip from The Office on this subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQfW1G6Me5E. ;)

Nora Gomez said...

Agreed with some of the comments above, repeating their name back always helps. I still have such a difficult time, though!

Librarian Lavender said...

This sounds like a very handy trick. I think some of the problem is that it also goes very fast when someone tells you their name. It's paying attention really well. If you miss half of it you will never remember...

Hilda Vanessa Ramos said...

I'm a visual person so repeating the name doesn't work for me so well. I do like the tip of relating to another person with the same name.
What i usually do is visualize the name, literally; i write it in my mind or in the air. I try to ask how they spell it and that usually does the trick.

shilpishilpi said...

Yes, this method is great! I had a friend who was a congressional lobbyist and needed to be able to identify the 500+ reps by name (to say nothing of the other folks he encountered) and he used this exact method.

In everything I've read about memory, it seems like the key is to connect new info to old info that is already in your brain.

Eliza said...

When I know i'm about to see someone who's name I forget that I should know and IF i'm with a friend or my husband I quietly and quickly say "I've forgotten their name, introduce yourself." - that way my husband can do the "sorry I didn't catch your name, I'm Mark" and after the mystery-name-person introduces theirself I can say "Oh! How rude of me, I should have introduced you!" Of course, this doesn't work when I'm re-meeting someone by myself!

Rachael McNeal said...

Write it down!!!

I repeat it back to the person the. The first chance I get I write it down and a little something we talked about or what they look like- it works every time (don't write it down in front of the person - it freaks then out)

Katy said...

I work with kids, and a mother once introduced her non-identical twin girls to me as "Olivia and Sophia. Like Olivia Newton-John and Sophia Loren." I never forgot those two! :)

Gabrielle said...

I don't do well at remembering names. I remember faces, and can put the name to the face if I have it written down. So at first opportunity I put it in a note in my cellphone, with their kids and significant others names too. Then next time I meet them I can quickly check if I can't recall their name.

xina said...

I used to forget names so easily, but I've found that if I look the person in the eyes and repeat the name out loud (and then a couple of times silently for good measure!) I tend to remember their name better. (also making sure to use the persons name whenever you speak with them reinforces it) I think it's because usually we're thinking of other things/nervous when meeting new people so we don't really hear the name and then as soon as it's been said we forget. Anyway, that concentration kinda helps! :) xx

JC Cross-Jones said...

Lol who would you visualise with my name! Chantele? Sadly not all that common, hehe! I'm usually pretty good, after working with kids groups you needed to pick up names pretty quick!
Two Hearts One Roof

Lana said...

On the flip side, I find that if someone tells me their name and it is, "Jessica, Jennifer, Brittany, Sarah, Megan, Melissa, Audrey/Aubrey" there is probably no way I'll remember it because I just know too many of them! It's like it goes in one ear and out the other before they've finished telling me. It's kind of embarrassing!

Susan M. said...

Love this thread. I have a problem remembering names and do the same standard things -- try to repeat it once or twice right away, even if it feels nerdy. If I don't, I almost always forget.
Then I also create sometimes a mnemonic that is personally associative. It might be -- he is David, just like my dad is David. Or for unusual names, perhaps a rhyme: Kellyn rhymes with Helen. Or Chantele is a belle. My husband has a Dutch name which few people can pronounce or remember: Kees, which is pronounced as "Case." I often try to help people remember it by saying that Case, rhyming with "suitcase." But my husband, in an attempt to be funny and self-deprecating, confuses people by saying "Case like a mental case." Then people are nervous because they are not sure about the joke. And then if they mangle it into Casey, Chase, and Keith. So I don't know why telling them that "rhymes with suitcase" doesn't help them. They just want to make it into an English name.

smash said...

Someone told me this a few years ago and I have always found it SO helpful! I'm so much better at remembering when I do this!

collette said...

I use Christie's trick. Reach out hand, Person says, "Hi, I'm Person" and I say, "Person, nice to meet you". Repetition :)

Lauren @ Lot Forty Eight said...

I write the persons name on their forehead in my mind. Works EVERYTIME. so when I meet someone, I look at their forehead and imagine myself writing their name on their head. I'm telling you, it works like a charm!!! It is related to a trick a cook told me when I was first a waitress. He said "if someone asks for something and you don't write it down, imagine what they want floating above their head". That worked like a charm too and really improved my tips ;)

Mirela said...

Nice tip! For names that are a bit more complicated like mine (Mirela) I usually ask them to spell it out for me. Once I have the visual of the name, I ask them once again how to say it. And that's helpful!

Audrie said...

I used to be in PR so I had to remember everyone's names, and thankfully I've always had a good memory for such things. My husband, however, is the worst. He can't remember our friend's names let alone people we see once in a long while. I've had to remind him of his cousins' spouses and children before family gatherings lol!

Jay said...

I'll have to remember this, it might help me!

md said...

Para mí es bastante difícil recordar los nombres de las personas. Intentaré aplicar esta técnica.

Saludos.

Katerina said...

Nope! No tip! I just forget people's names..I know, pathetic! So the only thing I do is I admit that I forget names and always say mine first, hoping that other forget names too!

Lynn DontBlameTheKids said...

I am the worst at remembering names. I will take all the help I can get! I think my main problem is that I'm not fully paying attention. I'm wondering if we have met before, or if my handshake feels weak, or any number of things that crowd my brain in that exact moment. I think I just need to really focus.

http://dontblamethekids.com

Kensley said...

Seriously. The second after I hear a name come out of someone's mouth it's gone. What. Is. That.

Maybe this tip will help!
The Shaded Acorn

kendra said...

oh this is good! I tend to do that with celebrities. I met someone named after a villain in a show i watch. though i hate associating them.

Atiba said...

Nice trick! Will remember it the next time I meet someone new.. and hope that it will work!

Flourish said...

This is a great idea, I'm going to try it out! I do what others have said and repeat the other person's name - this helps me a lot. When I was doing more business networking I wrote things down when I got home including little tidbits that were shared. We have a kid with a very uncommon name, and I often introduce him by his nickname, especially when talking to people I know we won't see again because it's easier.

Emma R said...

I tend to be pretty good at names when I don't have to introduce myself, but if I know I am expected to produce my name after the other person I get distracted trying to remember that I need to introduce myself and then I lose track of their name. What helps me is to repeat it out loud but in my head add something like "eyebrows Emily" --an alliteration tying some distinctive feature with their name.

Anne Hill said...

super smart idea! I'll be going to alt summit for the first time next week and need all the tricks to remember I can get!

Carol said...

I repeat their name 3 times within the first 15 mins of conversation. That works for me :)

Marvin Lee said...

I never forget name if I just hear it once. I love collecting new english boys names and girls names. If I like some name I used to write it in my list.

Stephanie Nevels said...

Ooh I have one I saw on the Katie show! When you hear their name, immediately make a connection (someone else with that name, a celebrity, etc.) and mentally place said connection on that person's most prominent feature (pretty eyes, hair, lips etc.) It sounds so bizarre but it's worked so well for me! I used to be terrible at remembering names, but now I feel like a pro! :)

Juju's Itty Bitties said...

The picture-their-name-written-on-their-forehead- approach works wonders for me.

Grace said...

I always end up having to ask a mutual friend for someone's name that I should (but usually don't) remember. I'm great with faces, but the names never come as quickly as they should (like days later). This trick is easy, I'm interested to see if it works for me!

Thanks for sharing
www.lepiccolegrazie.wordpress.com

tere said...

no one else thought about the house bunny? the exorcist trick? haha!

Joanna Goddard said...

LOVE these other tips!! these are great. and bethany, haha, that made me laugh out loud. i'm going to remember that!

Joanna Goddard said...

kellyn, your comment made me lol.

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