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PhiNotPi's avatar

How to get better at remembering names?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12677points) November 29th, 2011

One thing that I am really bad at is remembering names. I guess I should go ahead and tell a story about this… Thinks back to middle school / high school, since it is a very good example…

So, back whenever I was in middle school (that sentence makes me sound old), I was in a homeroom of ~30 people, who all shared almost the same schedule. Even though I conversed with all of them on a regular basis for about 180 days, by the end of the year, I still didn’t know some of their names.

More recently, some of my friends, whose names I do know, where talking about memory and I mentioned that I was bad with names. So one of them pointed out a whole bunch of people and told me their names. I have forgotten all of those names except for one, who offered me a mnemonic to remember her name with. I am pretty sure most people don’t use mnemonics to help remember names.

So, what can I do to fix this?

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8 Answers

picante's avatar

I have a close friend who was terrible at remembering names of real people, but he could rattle off a list of character names in movies and their related actors like nobody’s business. I pointed out this seeming anomoly to him one day.

He’s gotten markedly better at remembering people’s names in the months/years since then, and when I asked him about this, he claims that when he is introduced to someone, in addition to repeating the name (that’s important), he visualizes the credits rolling in a movie theater. It would look something like “Tall man at John’s holiday party played by Allen Smith.” He swears that works for him.

Good luck!

El_Cadejo's avatar

I am absolutely god awful at this too. I have an amazing memory when it comes to other stuff much like @picante ‘s friend, but names escape me. Its especially bad for me because I have a very unique name so EVERYONE remembers my name but I never remember theirs.

roxanna's avatar

Having that same challenge ,these are some strategies that work for me
Associate something with that person and name, eg, i usually remember people who have the same name as someone i already know,
associate an image , eg,visualise a daisy with someone of that name,
the more outrageous the image,the more you’ll be likely to rmember the name.

JLeslie's avatar

When you meet someone say their name back, so it is more likely to stick. “Nice to meet you Leslie.” Shortly after learning their name, use their name while talking to them. “You know Leslie, I was thinking the same thing just yesterday.”

bkcunningham's avatar

@PhiNotPi, I enjoyed your story. It reminded me of a recent incident while we were doing our nightly swim at our community pool. An older man I was just getting to know was swimming with me and talking. As someone exited the pool area, nearly everyone in the pool would say “good night,” “goodbye” or “see you tomorrow.” As each person left, my friend, who is much older than me, would ask me if I knew the person’s name.

At each departure, I would respond to his question, “Who is that?” by saying, “I can’t remember their name. But they are really nice.” Or I’d have some anecdote to tell about that person who just left. Finally, my friend told me that he thought I was a very nice person and a “people person” but he was amazed that I didn’t have enough respect for these folks to remember something as basic as their names.

He said he was a school teacher his entire career and had no less than 200 students each school year. He make an effort to know every name within two weeks of school starting. He then proceeded to tell me the first and last names of everyone in the pool and the people who had left. He asked me to take a challenge from him and try to remember people’s first and last names by repeating the name no less than four times after they told me their names and then to use word association.

By golly it has worked. It does make for a better connection when you use someone’s name. For some reason it makes me feel better to know their name. It brings a familiarity and closeness to the conversation. More of a feeling like I know them and care and that I’m not just nodding in agreement and letting what they say go in one ear and out the other.

Oh, well. That was one of my little life lessons I thought I’d share.

ETpro's avatar

@PhiNotPi I frankly confess I came here not to give you the answer, but to read what others wrote. I have the same challenge remembering names, though I do recall that I soon knew everyone in my home room in middle school, and in fact most of the student body.

I learned a lot from the points listed above. Particular thanks to @bkcunningham for sharing such a personal and compelling anecdote. Let’s hear it for old guys who can still teach a thing or two.

RocketGuy's avatar

I sometimes pre-warn the person that I need to be reminded of his/her name 3 times before it will stick. That tells my subconscious mind that it has only that many chances to remember the name. Works pretty well.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

Try writing them down (discreetly, of course) and calling the people by their names in your head when you think about them.

I have the opposite problem. I’ve found it easier to remember names for quite a lot of my life. I write names down and I like knowing I spelled them right. I am also grateful for Facebook because it helps me get people’s names right and helps me not forget how to spell them.

If I want to know someone on a personal level in person, I view it as extremely important to not only know his or her name (and to have learned it in a socially acceptable way), but to know how to spell his or her name right.

I find that people take me more seriously when I remember their names and have enough respect to learn how to spell their names correctly. I have even been thanked for spelling a guy’s last name correctly, as he was used to people butchering it. I also was taught in school that when addressing someone like an employer of a company, it is super important to address him or her appropriately and to learn how to spell his or her name appropriately as well. It can go a long way.

I don’t tell you the above things to be condescending, but rather as motivation for you to get this thing down. Life is a lot easier (at least in my opinion) when one can remember names. :)

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