6 tricks to help you remember names

by ianmckenzie on January 31, 2012

I have a terrible time remembering people’s names. Let me rephrase that, I have a terrible time learning people’s names. I don’t know how often I’ve been embarrassed when someone greets my by name and I can’t remember who the person is.

I envy those people that remember your name from the first time they hear it. Anyone with such an ability has a head start on building strong relationships.

Here are 6 tricks I use to help imprint that new name in my memory:

  1. Show interest in the other person – Your initial frame of mind makes a big difference in name retention. I have lost countless names because I was thinking about the impression I was creating, and not listening to the person I was meeting. There’s an irony in making a bad impression because you’re too focussed on making a good impression.
  2. Repeat the name back – It’s easy to confirm what you heard by saying something like, “Nice to meet you, Joan.” If the person’s name is a little unusual, you can repeat it to make sure you’re pronouncing it correctly. If you’re unclear about a name given via telephone, ask for the spelling. Saying the name immediately helps lock it in the memory.
  3. Use it often – When you’re speaking with someone you’ve just met, use their name throughout your conversation. End your conversation with their name.
  4. Write it on their forehead – Not literally! Picture the name you’ve just learned on the person’s forehead. Visualizing this incongruous image reinforces the name.
  5. Use word association – Dora the Explorer is easy to remember because of the rhyme pattern. Mike Holmes is easy to remember by playing off his last name; Holmes on Homes. Come up with some sort of word association on a person’s name.
  6. Write it down – The best thing I can do to learn a new name is to write it down. The minute I walk away from the person, I pull out my pocket pad and write the name. 90% of the time, that’s all it takes to seal the name in my mind. The other 10%, I can pull out the pad and refresh my memory.

Our names are important to us. We appreciate those people who, with seeming lack of effort, learn and remember our names. If you want to make a strong impression on the people you meet, make the effort to remember names.

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