How to Never Forget a Name Again

Katie Sweeney

When it comes to remembering a person’s name, I am often forgetful. I love meeting new people, but I’m not the most receptive listener. I will become captivated by what they are saying and within seconds completely forget their name. According to Inc., I am not alone—most people are bad at remembering names. The good thing is that the problem isn’t specific to me or you; it’s simply how humans are wired.

“While we're programmed to retain information that seems relevant and which we can tie to other facts and sensations we're already storing in our heads, if a piece of data like a name is context-less and random, there's less for the brain to latch onto.” So how can we teach ourselves to retain a person’s name? Here are some useful tips.

Pay attention. Focus on the interaction at hand and “mentally make a decision to remember the name before you hear it. Imagine that the person is very powerful and it’s important for you to remember their name.” This will direct your brain to store the name in your long-term memory.

Repeat it out loud. Use their name in a sentence as soon as possible. Ask them a question and add their name to the end of it: “So, where did you grow up, Jaqueline?”

Create associations. “When you meet someone new, consciously link their name with a person or image to help it stick in your brain.” Think of a friend, someone famous, or a memorable image. If you meet a girl named Taylor, you might associate her with Taylor Swift.

Spell it out. When someone has an unusual name you are not familiar with, ask them to spell it out. If you don’t feel comfortable asking them how to spell their name, break the “unusual names into pieces and create a little story with the sounds.”

Focus on their face. Look for unique facial features that make them different from other people. Associate their name with a characteristic: Say "Patrick the redhead" in your mind, and the next time you run into him, you may remember his name, thanks to his red hair.

Write it down. Make a quick note on your smartphone with a few descriptors like "Michael: dark hair, golf director," or "Deiter: works in advertising at Audi; great style."

Ask again. Don’t be afraid to ask the person what their name is again. If you are embarrassed when you finish the conversation, ask them for a card, take a quick look at the name on the card, shake their hand, and say, “It was a pleasure meeting you, Melissa.”

Love your name? Get it monogrammed on your laptop bag.

What’s your technique for remembering someone’s name?

Explore: Life, Meetings

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