One of the best ways you can make another person feel special is by remembering their name. I really enjoy the way people’s faces light up when they realize that I remembered their name even though they mentioned it a few weeks ago and I haven’t seen them since. You can also have your own more manipulative reasons for remembering people’s names, however I just think its a nice thing to do for other people, and very important for building relationships with others. So, here are a few tips on how to remember people’s names:
- When you first ask their name, repeat it back to them. If it’s a difficult name, don’t be wary of repeating it a few times and ask for help in pronouncing it correctly. People appreciate the effort of someone trying to remember their names.
- The way I remember most things to force what’s called “original awareness”. I tend to look at the person’s face and repeat the name in my head and try to fix it to them, this is the foundation for all that follows (and for most other memory tricks).
- If the person has a common name and/or you already know someone with that name (even celebrities or people you don’t personally know), make the mental connection between the new person and the person who’s name you already know. I mentally hold both images in my head, concentrate on them for a moment and then forget about it. For example, say I met someone named Tim, I know two or three Tims. The one I know the best also works where I met this person, so I would think about that for a moment and then let it go. Works surprisingly well. Forcing it more doesn’t seem to work. Concentrated focus for a second or so seems to work really well.
- For unusual names that you’re not familiar with and do not know anyone else with that name, do this: First, break their name down into syllables and repeat it back to them. You can repeat their name back to them a few times, and this might just be enough. The other trick is to find some substitute words that sound similar to the name you are trying to remember. It can be one or a string of substitute words. These words should be those familiar to you, and if you want to, they can also be visual images that you can then link together. For example, say I want to remember then name Masashi. It sounds a bit like mass-ash-i, and I can perhaps imagine a mass of people covered in ash. The weirder the association, the better, so I probably would not imagine a pile(or a mass) of ash.
- Another thing I do sometimes with an unfamiliar name is to ask where it is from and that can help me form associations through that channel, too. For example, Masashi is a Japanese person and I can remember that because he looks somewhat Japanese but not totally, which sticks out in my head. Sometimes asking people what their names mean helps remember them, too. This usually works well with non-anglo-saxon names as they’re more likely to have meanings. This is something I am genuinely interested in, so you don’t have to do it if you’re not. It’s a great conversation starter, too. Unless their name doesn’t have a meaning. :-p
- A bit more advanced trick is to attach their name to some physical feature of theirs. For example, the two Tims I mentioned earlier both had long hair and beards, which helped to remember them. Alternatively, if that they have a particular feature, like high cheekbones or a big nose, you can concentrate on that for a second and then let it go. If you are even more advanced in memory tricks, you could use substitute words to create a visual image out of their name, and then link that visual image of the name to that feature. In that case, say Tim had a big nose. I might imagine a tin in place of the nose. Anything unique. For example, I don’t know many redheaded people, so it makes it easier to remember their name if I attach to it the fact that they’re redheaded. I can imagine them with a head of fire, for example. Don’t worry if this didn’t make sense. The other tricks should help you.
- To recall their name later, you may either think of the links you created, or jump right to the name you want to remember. In case you can’t remember the name, you can then start to work through the links to the name, including trying to remember where you met them last, in what context, when and who or what name you attached to them.
- If you don’t remember their name later on, do not be ashamed of simply asking their name. I have a bit of an unusual name, so I can usually joke that they probably don’t remember my name, either, which is usually the case. People appreciate it if you care about them enough to ask their name. 🙂
- To make it easier for people to remember your name, pronounce is slowly and with emphasis.
When you get better at these techniques you’ll be able to remember people’s names in a few seconds (even doing substitute words) and remember them days or perhaps even weeks later. Memory is helped along the most if you can remember their name again a few days later, either in meeting or just by remembering them. Remembering names is important and I hope these tricks helps you remember more of them easier.