The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Remembering Names
March 11, 2023 By Pjay Shrestha

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Remembering Names


Recognising the importance of remembering names, Dale Carnegie a renowned author famously shared that "a person's name is to him or her is the sweetest and most important sound in any language". Despite this, many of us struggle to remember names of people when we first meet someone. It can be disheartening when we can't even come up with the first letter, but it is essential to building relationships, creating rapport, and making a positive first impression.

We may think of our ability to remember people's names as something we were born with, however, that's not the case. According to Richard Harris, professor of psychology from Kansas State University, our level of interest is key to how well we can remember names. Other factors such as being nervous, worrying about what to say next, or thinking we are bad at remembering names, can also affect our recall. Fortunately, there are several strategies we can use to improve our memory of names. Grandmaster of Memory Edward "Ed" Cooke suggests the following tips:


1. Clearly understand their name: It doesn't matter if you mispronounce it, people will be pleased that you took the effort to remember it. So go ahead and take a chance; actively practice attempting to recall it. This is especially helpful if it is difficult to pronounce or from another culture.

2. Say the name out loud, and often: Practice using someone's name out loud often; not only will you remember it better, but it also shows social interest in that person. Repeat the name and get your mind used to the idea - this will help your memory so that you can recall it in the future.

3. Spell it out: It's not uncommon to mishear someone's name, particularly when there are similar names like Katie, Katherine, Kate, Cat, Caitlin, Kathy, and Karen. To ensure you remember the name correctly, ask the person how it is spelled. Not only does this give you the time to better process the name, but it also helps you remember it.

4. Link the name to an amusing image: Another effective way to remember names is to create mental images for them. If someone is called Terrence Mackie, imagine them walking a small Terrier while eating a Big Mac. If someone is called James Hood, picture them with Jam oozing out of their Hood. By making these creative visualisations, you can easily recall names and link them to the people they represent.

5. Link the person to a celebrity with the same name: Connecting people with the same name to celebrities can make their name even more unforgettable. For example, if you meet someone named George, you can link them to George Clooney. This way, the person's name stands out even more, making it easier to remember.

6. Pay attention to the face: One of the main reasons we forget things is because we fail to pay attention. To help with this, try to encourage your eyes to do a Z-shaped movement across a person's face when you first meet them. Look for a distinctive feature, such as their eyes, nose, or the two corners of their mouth, and make sure to pay extra attention to this particular feature. This will be a helpful "landmark" that you can use to recognise the person the next time you meet them.

7. Use visual associations: Remembering someone's name isn't just about repeating it in your head. To truly lock it in your memory, think of something distinct and memorable about the person. For example, if Francesca has an amusing nose, the next time you see her, remind yourself of that fact by saying, “Francesca, the girl with the amusing nose.” This will help link her name with her face in your mind and make it easier for you to remember.

8. Learn more about the person: When you first meet someone, it can be difficult to remember their name and face due to the lack of information you have about them. To make sure you can easily recall the person and all the details associated with them, it is important to take the time to learn more about them. By uncovering those extra details, the person will become more entrenched in your mind, making it easier to remember them the next time you meet.

9. Test yourself: Strengthening your memory of a name is essential to remembering it in the long run. After you've been introduced to someone, make sure you actively recall their name by reviewing and remembering it. Take a few moments to think back to the person you were introduced to ten minutes ago and actively recall their name. Doing this will help you remember it better in the future.

In summary, the next time you find yourself beating yourself up for forgetting a name, rest easy—it happens to the best of us! Learning and using people's names correctly is a skill that you can master with a bit of time, patience and effort. In the end, the rewards of building meaningful relationships with clients, colleagues and employees will make it worth it. So don't be discouraged—you can master this skill with a little bit of practice.

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