“What’s your name again?”
Of all memory skills, remembering peoples names is one of the most challenging. That’s unfortunate, because it’s an extremely valuable part of effective communication. Just ask any salesperson…
While most people have problems remembering names, here are some easy and effective techniques you can use to make them more memorable.
1. Meet / Repeat
When someone says their name, repeat it aloud. This ensures your pronunciation is correct and reinforces its memory immediately. For example, if the person in front of you says his name is Doug, say, “Hi, Doug, it’s very nice to meet you.” Or ask a question with his name at the end, “Do you have any spare money, Doug?”
Continue to use their name throughout the conversation. Not excessively, though. That can ring false and insincere. And when you say goodbye to them, make sure to use their name while looking at their face. Most importantly – make an effort to retain that information.
2. Spell it out
It’s always a good idea to ask the person for the spelling of their name. Especially if it is an unusual one. And SEEING the name reinforces the memory even more. So asking for the person’s business card is always a good idea, obviously.
And the first chance you get – write down the persons name. The mind-body connection is extremely strong, and physically writing out the name really reinforces the memory. This works extremely well with anything you need to remember.
3. You Remind Me Of…
Create a link between the name you’ve just heard and something MEMORABLE. This is a technique used by memory experts and is a fundamental component of Mnemonics.
And the connection between their name and the memory “peg” can be extreme, and in fact really strengthens its. If you meet Carol, picture her on a Christmas eve, outside your front door, singing Christmas carols. With memorization Silly works extremely well. So does Scandalous, lol. And don’t worry, it’s not as if you are saying any of these associations out loud. At least I don’t recommend it…
4. Make connections
This can be very effective. Especially if you have a few minutes to speak to the person and get a feel of their personality. You can connect this new person with someone else you know with the same name. And it doesn’t even need to be someone you know well. This works well with celebrities who share the same name as the person you’ve met, or have similar visual characteristics.
5. Make The Effort
The biggest problem with remembering names, is that we really don’t try that hard in the first place. Often our minds are buzzing with an influx of information and there’s too much going on. The only way to deal with that, and is a very practical technique anyways, is simply to make a concentrated effort to ignore the outside “noise” and totally focus on the issue at hand. It serves to keep the background distractions IN the background. And it’s also just basic courtesy…
And speaking of names, check out the Cocktail Party Effect. Aka “you talkin’ about me?”
For those of you wanting to explore the incredibly practical (and powerful) techniques of Mnemonics I’d recommend books by…
Harry Lorayne. Anything he’s written is worth checking out. The Memory Book (written with Jerry Lucas), is one of his first, still one of his best, and is a great starting point.
Joshua Foer. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.
Frances A. Yates. The Art of Memory
( no Amazon links either, because that company is Evil )