Coping with… Remembering names

No, it’s not just you. Everyone struggles to remember people’s names, especially when you’re presented with a situation where you are machine gunned with a queue of new faces, introduced to you one after another in quick succession. An inability to remember names is often blamed on all kinds of things; age, inability to concentrate, a lack of engagement with people on a

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personal level. For every nameless face there’s often just as many reasons why we think we can’t remember names. Maybe it’s just simply our memory deteriorating with age, and therefore apart from eat lots of bananas, rumoured to be good for the memory, there’s little we can do. The truth is, names ARE difficult to remember, for all of us. The reason is that names, unlike other labels we pin on people are arbitrary, have no reason and are given to people for often, nothing more than emotional reasons. We all remember, much more easily, that the guy introduced to us at the party is an estate agent, or the girl is a banker – we can visualise these things and therefore they are more easily remember, more easily stores sway and then recalled. Many memory techniques involve visualising information in some way for the very reason that our minds are visual machines. It’s no different for names. Building visual connections with a person are a great way of storing that name. But beware, whilst this widely lauded memory technique is ubiquitously promoted, it’s still easier said than done. Some people build a long elaborate string of visual word associations that lead them back to ‘James’ or ‘Jennifer’. Other people store one factor about a persons ‘look’, and then connect that fact with their name. Here are a few bullet point techniques for remembering names…

  • Engage immediately with the person you’ve just met and try to associate that name quickly with some personal detail; hobby, job, likes etc.Repeat the name as many times as possible as soon as possible, ideally as you’re talking to them.
  • Associate the name with something visual about them.
  • Whatever technique you develope just remember it is said that no one likes to hear any other word more than their own name.
  • Sound association. Break their name down phonetically and they try to make sound associations with things you know about them, eg motor biker Mike would be Mike and the bike. Colleen, who seemed evasive and secretive might be ‘Colleen not all that she seem’.

So remembering names is important. The best managers out there are, always without exception, the ones who can remember the names of all their staff. But remember also, we ALL struggle to remember names not just you. When you’re introduced to someone, always repeat their name back. Use it as often as possible as soon as possible. But most of all, cut everyone else done slack when they can’t remember your name. Maybe when they first met you they were actually distracted by something much more interesting and positive!

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