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Don't Forget Me: How to Remember Names of People You Meet

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Robert writes informative articles about people and relationships.

How to Remember Names

How to Remember Names

The Importance of Remembering Names

Our name is who we are, our personal trademark that the world uses to identify us. Think of the name Beyonce, Trump, or Michael Jackson and right away you can call up a picture of that person and what they stand for. A name is an identifier and cannot be separated from the person, which is why you don't really know someone if you don't know their name.

For example, the friendly cashier at the grocery store or the guy that is always waiting for the bus at the same time as you may be familiar faces, even acquaintances, but you do not really know them. You do not know one of the most basic things about them, their names.

Which is why forgetting someone's name can be awkward, embarrassing., and stymie any chance to develop a relationship. There is a funny episode on Seinfeld where Jerry forgets the name of the woman he is dating and tries a number of unsuccessful tricks to find out her name, only to fail miserably and wreck the relationship.

Seinfeld was known for observational comedy based on real life situations, which is why this episode is not far off the mark. We often do forget people's names, leading to awkward social situations.

The good news is we can learn how to remember people's names and reap a number of social benefits.

You are more likely to remember a person's name if you can establish a rapport with them, or focus on a distinguishing physical characteristic or personality trait.

You are more likely to remember a person's name if you can establish a rapport with them, or focus on a distinguishing physical characteristic or personality trait.

Are You Bad With Names?

You can improve your ability to remember names with just a few simple tricks

Remembering Names


How to Remember Names

There are a lot of different techniques that can help you remember the names of people you have just been introduced to. Not all of them work as well for all people, so you will want to try the different methods out and decide which one works best for you. You may even want to try more than one technique with the same name or group of people, in order to reinforce their effect.

Below I explain the main techniques for remembering names.

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Using a person's name in moderation can help build rapport and friendship. People who never use your name either don't know it, or don't care enough to use it.

Use the Name

It's much harder to remember someone's name if you never use it. The reason is that the act of forming the person's name in your head and saying it out loud reinforces your memory.

So an easy method is to repeat the person's name when you are introduced. For example, if someone introduces you to Karen, say "Nice to meet you Karen." instead of just "Hi" or "Nice to meet you." This simple trick will just by itself greatly increase your ability to remember their name.

Then try to use their name a few times in conversation. For example, you can ask "What do you think of the movie, Karen." This provides additional reinforcement.

However don't over do it. Overusing someone's name can seem forced and insincere. You see this overuse of people's names by used car salesmen, insurance salesmen and other shady operatives who want to create a false sense of familiarity with you so that they can take your money. Avoid repeating the person's name too much or else you will come across as a phony.

Associate the Name With an Image or Thing

If you are bad with names it's probably because you are not using your visual memory to remember the spoken or written name. If we can associate a person's name with a unique physical characteristic or associate an image with their name, we will increase our retention and make it easier to remember it.

Here is an obvious example. If you think of the name Hitler you will most likely visualize one of the homicidal dictator's most noticeable features, his so called Hitler mustache, which not surprisingly has gone out of fashion and is now hardly used by anyone else. So if you ever see a picture of him, his unmistakable mustache is going to remind you of his name, because the two are intertwined.

If you look hard enough most people have some physical characteristic, or manner of speech, or way of dressing that makes them unique. Perhaps they are red heads, of have a limp, or they are exceptionally tall. When you first meet someone, take the time to associate their name with that characteristic so that the next time you see it, it will jog your memory.

Another way is to associate the sound of their name with a thing or animal that sounds like their name. Here is an easy and obvious example to illustrate the point.

Let's say you have been introduced to someone named John Elefantis (actually an actor in real life). Of course you would remember him as an elephant in your mind's eye. That's almost too easy, but you get the point.

Cheat Sheet for Remembering Names


Use the Name

When your introduced to someone, use their name in conversation. For example, you can ask "What do you think, Bill?" But don't overuse their name because that will sound forced and artificial.

Focus on Notable Physical Traits

Associate each name with a notable physical characteristic or personality trait. That way, whenever you see that person, the feature will trigger your memory. Think of how a Charlie Chaplin moustache is inextricably linked to the name of the comedian.

Make Word Associations

Associate their names with different animals based on what their name sounds like. For example, a man with the last name Elefantis would be an "Elephant" in your mind.


So there you have it, a few simple but effective techniques to remember names. Try them and you will avoid the embarrassment of having to admit that you have forgotten who they are.

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