• Laura Sesana

Five Ways to Remember Names

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

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NEW YORK—It is often difficult to recall people’s names. The ability to recall names after a single introduction is extremely advantageous in social, business and political settings.

There is nothing more infuriating than the person who you have been introduced to a dozen times asking “what was your name again?” In a social situation, this can be embarrassing; in a business setting, not remembering a person’s name can cost you a client or contract.

There are a number of methods to help individuals remember names and connect them to faces. What method is more effective depends on the individual and the way their memory works. Following is a list of the most popular methods to recall names.

1. Connect with names you know. An effective way to remember a person’s name is to associate the person with someone you know with the same name. Think—or even say, “Amanda, like my sister” or think (just think) “George not-as-good-looking-as Clooney.”

2. Repetition. Repeating a person’s name, both out loud and in your head, can be an effective way to remember their name. “Nice to meet you, Angela,” is often an easy way to say the person’s name during an introduction without making it too obvious. Try to use the person’s name again a few times during the conversation, “So, where are you from, Michael?” can often be a useful question when you meet someone for the first time.

Wikihow suggests you repeat a name in your head at least ten times after you first meet a person.

3. Spell it out. Spell out a person’s name in your head as soon as you learn it. Often seeing something spelled out is enough to commit it to memory. Even though it can be embarrassing, ask a person how they spell their name. This will reinforce the memory.

4. Observation and association. The traditional trick that most people suggest for connecting a name with a face has to do with associating the name with a distinctive feature or fact about the person. There are many ways to do this.

One way is to associate the name with a distinctive physical feature (Mr. Green, who has bushy eyebrows can be pictured with a big green unibrow, for instance, Rose with the nose) or a memorable trait or fact about the person (Leon the linebacker, Martha with the dimples). Others, like Kristi Hedges at Forbes, associate by using alliterations (Penny from Pennsylvania, Harry is not hairy). Associations can be as wild and over the top, or plain and simple as you want them to be.

5. Realize why remembering names is important. Most of us do not understand the importance of names. However, everyone has felt good when someone they met briefly or a long time ago remembers their name. Remembering someone’s name communicates recognition, validation, and respect, as well as forges a connection—all of which will be useful in any situation where you must interact with people.

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© LAURA SESANA