We all love it when someone remembers our names. It makes us feel important, acknowledged and accepted. And when we fail to recall someone’s name, we never really want them to know!
Have you ever caught yourself in that situation when the person walks up to you confidently, address you by your name and there you are, frantically searching your mind trying to call up his or her name? Take comfort in the fact that it happens to the best of us!
Notwithstanding, the ability to remember people’s names is an incredibly useful skill, in business and social interactions. Several techniques exist to help in mastering the art of never forgetting people’s names. It has been used extensively and proven effective.
Go ahead and try them: the trick is to take immediate (mental) action upon a new introduction.
Many of us ‘believe’ that we are “horrible at names” and we are very ‘proud’ of this fact by telling other people about it. By relying on this story we’ve created, we instantly forget people’s names the moment we hear it, without even trying, because we are “horrible at names”. So, STOP telling people that you are “Bad at names”. You are not bad at names, you just have not implemented a system that worked for you yet. Tell yourself, “I am fantastic at remembering names! And I will begin practicing now.”
If you know another person with the same name, try the following:
See that person’s face in your imagination.
Now, see the person’s face bounce up-and-down (perhaps smiling at you).
Now, see the new person’s face, bouncing up-and-down beside the first face.
Repeat steps A to C several times
Using Sound Tricks
If you do not know another person with this same, try the following mnemonics using sound:
Repeat their names several times in your head, while noting the following:
Exaggerate the sounds. Prolong the syllables. Ie. “Teeeeeeeee-Naaaaa!” The funnier, the funkier and disturbing, the better for remembering.
‘Chunking‘ – Break the name into several distinguishable parts/words.
Associate parts of name with words you’re already familiar with and can easily pronounce. Ie. “Ramesh” = Mesh, Mash
Create a story – Especially great for foreign, long or unusual names. Make the story highly visual, especially great if the story sounds silly and makes you laugh.
Example, “Bengodi” -> “Ben Afflect is going to become a deejay.”
Hear the Sounds Repeated
Look into their eyes while being introduced and repeat their name several times out aloud.
You can try asking the following questions after being introduced. This gives additional time and opportunity to practice their names on the spot:
“Did I pronounce it correctly?”
“How do you pronounce that?”
“Could you repeat it?”
Note: People typically do not mind to help you learn their names.
See the Spelling Visually
Practice seeing each letter clearly in your mind. Sound out each letter as you see them. Repeat the process of seeing and hearing each letter in sequence.
Example. “Tyler” – “Tee, Y, L, E, R, Tyler!”
Two tips for this technique:
Clarify Spelling – Ask “How do you spell that?” This gives extra time and chance to practice the technique. Make sure to repeat the letters back to the person (and see the letters as you say it). Don’t worry about sounding or looking silly. If you are genuine about learning someone’s name, they will actually appreciate it.
“Dancing Letters” – As you pass through each letter, see it move a little. It could be shaking, bouncing, wobbling in its place. This will help your mind to retain the memory.
Writing it Down
Always useful to have some scrap paper and pen with you. Better yet, use your notebook if you carry one. When the person is not looking or when you are in the bathroom, quickly jot down the names or sounds of names.
(Optionally) write a one-liner description beside the name
“Dapo, the real estate guy from Ikeja.”
Keep a file on your computer. Call it “The Name Record” or TNR. When writing down a name, it is important to associate the name with a memorable fact or story.
“Lekan – friend of Josh. music director, they went to same college, big eyes, sarcastic.”
Wow, it may seem at lot at first but remember, people matter and their names are their personal unique identifiers. How well they warm up to you begins from their perception of your outlook towards them. So, what do you do? Make them feel important by first, calling them by name!
Try using these techniques one at a time. Practice them. When you feel comfortable, try another. Believe in yourself; the more you want to remember a name, the easier it will come.
Sandra Oma Etubiebi