Remembering Names: 10 Memory Strategies
How many times have you met someone before, and, upon meeting again, completely blanked on what their name is?
Not only can this be impolite, it can also be unprofessional and embarrassing for all parties involved.
This is by no means a rare sort of incident. Studies show that 85% of middle-aged to older adults have trouble remembering people’s names. And it isn’t just older people that struggle with memory strategies: I still remember the embarrassing moment I forgot my classmate’s name in middle school.
Using people’s names is a great way to bond with them, professionally and socially. Try implementing some of the following memory strategies for remembering names if this is something you struggle with.
1. Decide You’re Going to Remember
With other seemingly more pressing things to worry about (like what you’ll talk about, how your outfit looks, wondering whether the presentation is going to go well, etc), our main motivation when speaking with others isn’t usually remembering names.
But one of the most important memory strategies for remembering names is, in fact, being motivated to remember. Go into a situation where you’re learning someone’s name focused entirely on the task of remembering. Many memory experts and studies say that motivation and focus is a key component to learning and memory.
2. Make Sure You’re Listening
Once you’re motivated to remember people’s names, you have to follow through by actually listening to people when they tell you their name. It’s easy to introduce yourself and immediately begin thinking about the next thing you’re going to say instead of listening to the person introduce themselves.
A lot of the time when someone introduces themselves and you forgot their name one minute later, it’s because you weren’t actually listening to the person tell you their name.
Focus your mind entirely on the person you’re speaking with. Give them your undivided attention. This way, you’ll not only hear the person say their name, but you’ll actually be listening when they do.
3. Repeat the Name
Once someone has said their name to you, repeating it can help cement it in your memory.
Let’s say someone just told you their name is Rosa. You can say, “It’s great to meet you, Rosa,” or, “Rosa, I can’t believe we’re just meeting for the first time!”
You also don’t have to only repeat it right after they’ve said it. Slip their name into the conversation as you talk so you can really nail it into your memory. For example, you could say, “So, Rosa, how long have you lived in the Bay Area?”
Proper communication and repetition will help keep the name in your brain instead of hearing it once and having it fade away.
4. Ask Them to Spell It
If you’re not sure you heard the name right or if it’s unfamiliar to you, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves or to spell it out. Having them spell it out for you will make it more memorable and will help you make sure you’re saying it right.
According to psychologist Gary Small, spelling out the name will also create a sort of visual memory that will make it easier for you to recall at a later time.
5. Create an Association
When you first hear someone’s name, try to associate that name with a word or phrase that connects with it. Connecting the name to something else that is relevant in your life will make it easier for you to remember.
Let’s look at some examples of this. Let’s say you meet someone named Harry. You could think to yourself, “Harry like Harry Potter.” Associating a name to other words that are familiar to you will make it easier for you to remember it long-term.
6. Notice Their Appearance
Besides other words or phrases familiar to you, you can also link the person’s appearance to their name. Take notice of identifying features like their nose, eyes, hair color, teeth, freckles, etc.
If you can remember that Trey has bushy eyebrows and Sally has a gap in her teeth, it will help your brain connect the facial feature with the name.
Pick something that immediately stands out to you about the person. The next time you talk to them, you’re likely to notice the feature again, which can help with name recall.
7. Mnemonic Devices
Another one of the top memory strategies for remembering names is creating a mnemonic device. Mnemonic devices are phrases or words that you use to help you remember something.
Try breaking the name down into parts and using those parts to create a silly or memorable sentence.
For example, someone named Matilda Kauffman might be hard to remember. But you can make a mnemonic device like: Matilda‘s cough made another man sick. This phrase is easier to remember, and it puts a visual in your mind that will make it easier to remember the name.
You can even go simpler than that. If Marsha is from Maine, you can think Marsha from Maine. If Ralph works in a store, you can think Retail Ralph. Small things like that go a long way.
8. Link a Visual to Their Name
Linking a visual to a person’s name is one of the best memory strategies because it’s so open-ended and can be personalized to what you think will help your memory.
If you meet someone named Mario, it can help to think of the video game character, for example. If they look like another one of your friends or acquaintances with the same name, keep that visual in your mind.
We also mentioned connecting visual features of the person to their name, which is also a good memory technique.
9. End the Conversation with Their Name
As you end the conversation, be sure to repeat their name one last time. Repeating the name at the end of the conversation with a simple, “Nice meeting you, Blake,” will help the name stick in your mind after the conversation ends.
10. Take the Time to Review
After meeting new people, take the time to go back over everyone’s name at the end of the day. You can look over name cards or even just think back to the conversations you had.
Putting in this extra effort to review and remember will help the names stick in your mind long-term.
These Memory Strategies Can Help You
Referring to people with their first name makes them feel important and listened to. This can be great for building a rapport with new people, both professionally and socially.
Hopefully, these tips will help you remember those names that usually slip your mind after the first conversation. If you enjoyed this post, check out our blog for more informative and educational articles.