Have you ever struggled to remember anyone’s name?
Someone you met at a party, at work, the friend of a friend introduced to you over dinner, perhaps?
Maybe it slipped your mind, and the next time you saw them, you furiously searched your head to remember their name.
Or tried to be subtle and get through the conversation without having to say it at all.
Or worse still, thought you got it right, only to find out you were totally wrong.
Being able to remember anyone’s name is a necessary skill, because, as learning expert, Pat Wyman points out, it lets people know you care.
It might be a casual acquaintance or someone you’ll be working with farther down the line.
If you forget their names, it’ll give them the impression that you can’t put in the effort to learn them.
And that isn’t exactly conducive for building healthy relationships, whether personal or professional, at all.
Thankfully, there are some simple but highly effective strategies you can use to remember anyone’s name.
Without further ado, let’s get right into them.
5 Things You Can Do to Remember Anyone’s Name
1) Pay Attention
The thing many of us get wrong straight off the bat is that we aren’t paying attention when we encounter a new name for the first time.
You’ve just been introduced to a person, and most likely, your brain is too busy thinking up things to say to them next to grasp their name.
National Memory Champion Ron White’s first and crucial step to remember anyone’s name is to focus.
Before you’re about to meet someone for the first time, ask yourself repeatedly, “What is their name?”
Chant it, a bit like a mantra.
By doing this, you switch your brain into focus mode.
You prime yourself to take in and store the new information without distractions.
2) Repeat the Name
When someone tells you their name, repeat it yourself.
By doing this, you hear it more than once.
Say something like, “Pleased to meet you, _____!”
Then, throughout the conversation, try to use their name a few more times.
What this does is helps your brain retrieve the name, over and over.
Retrieval, the process of recalling the information you stored in your brain, increases your memory of that specific information.
So, the more you repeat it, by making your brain recall the name, the less likely you are to forget it.
Repeating it also lets you make sure you caught the right name the first time.
If you’re unsure about the pronunciation, ask them to spell it out for you.
Don’t be shy.
By taking the time to remember anyone’s name, you are showing them that you do care about getting it right and remembering it.
Retrieval is a crucial part of any strategy to remember anyone’s name.
3) Link the Name to the Face
You might lament, “I’m good at remembering faces, but I can never remember names!”
That’s because the brain is inherently better at recalling images than it is at remembering things we have heard.
How do we link the name to the face then?
Every time you meet someone new, find something distinctive or memorable about their features.
Do they have dimples?
Large ears, or a broad forehead?
Big or small eyes?
A large or small nose?
Now, mentally hang or write their name across that feature.
It might sound odd, but this is the same sort of technique memory athletes use to remember hundreds and hundreds of random numbers and letters.
They place what they need to remember at a specific location.
This technique is also called the Mind Palace technique.
It’s how ancient Greeks and Romans used to remember entire volumes’ worth of information.
Do you have one specific place you keep your watch, or your phone, or your keys?
When you are looking for these things, you think of the location where you kept them.
Similarly, when you locate one distinct feature of a person and visualize their name there, you’re better able to remember anyone’s name.
This is an example of a mnemonic association.
4) Visualize Their Names
Another mnemonic device that memory champions use is mental images.
By creating associations between what you need to remember and images created in your head, you can remember anyone’s name.
A typical example is the name “Brian” – it’s very similar to “brain.”
So, if Brian has a broad forehead, you can imagine you’re using x-ray vision to see his large brain.
If Brain has bushy eyebrows, you can imagine his brain sitting on top of them.
You can get as creative and ridiculous as you want with these associations.
They will, in fact, help you remember better because vivid extraordinary mental images are easier to remember.
Delilah can remind you of a garden of dahlia flowers, or the tune for Hey There Delilah.
Bill could remind you of Bill Gates, a dollar bill, or the bills you get in the mail that you dread opening.
Break down complicated names into easier-to-remember chunks.
Think of a name like Johansson.
You could break it down into “Johann’s son.”
You could associate it with a famous person, like Scarlett Johannson.
Maybe you could even remember it because it rhymes with “Yo! Handsome!”
Whatever works for you!
Creating associations between a new piece of information and something relevant to you through mental images is a trick the best learners use all the time.
5) Develop Your Own System
Make a habit of creating mental images and associations with specific names you might come across a lot.
So the next time you meet a Bill or a Delilah or Brian or Jessica, you already have an association ready with which to remember them.
Make it a frequent practice to recall their names whenever possible.
If a friend introduced them to you the next time you see them ask, “How’s Delilah?”
If you are passing by the place you met them, try and recall who you had that conversation with.
As we’ve established, retrieval builds recall.
So, make it a practice to try and remember the names you’ve encountered in the day.
By spending that extra bit of time and effort, you improve your ability to remember anyone’s name better!
And there you go!
With these 5 easy steps, you can make it a practice to remember anyone’s name with ease.
Memory champions and experts swear by these tips – so are you going to try them out too?
Write in and let me know!
Nafisa Shamim is a writer who enjoys asking questions, and enjoys finding their answers even more. She has been a student, even while working full time, so her more exam study tips are a great resource for you.
As she works towards her Ph.D., she hopes to actively contribute to academic literature on communication, especially how individuals use and process new media, and learn while helping others learn.