A reader on the Conversation Skills Core Facebook Page recently asked this question:
“How do I remember the person’s name!? Sometimes I just have to forget about trying to remember names just so I can be relaxed enough to enjoy the conversation. I end up asking their name later which isn’t typically an issue but I never like having to do it. Is there something I can do to be better at this?”
It’s an important question.
If you forget someone’s name, it’s hard to concentrate on the conversation isn’t it? You’re standing there distracted so you’re not listening.
On the other hand, remembering a name hours or days later makes the person feel important. It can also give you an advantage, because let’s be honest, they probably have trouble remembering names too.
As famous business and communication expert Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
So, in this post I’ve included the best techniques I use to remember names in any situation.
Why it’s So Hard to Remember Names
It’s funny because if you think about it, we don’t have trouble remembering faces. We recognize people we’ve met before. The problem is matching the name to the face.
Why is that so hard?
Well, as memory expert Dominic O’Brien says, it’s because “our names do not describe our faces.”
Y’see our brains work in images, not words. So no surprise, one of the quickest ways to remember a name is to link it to an image. You then link the “name image” to the image of the person’s face.
Use Images to Remember Names
For example, if you meet an “Anna,” picture her standing there as a big banana. Even better, imagine Anna Banana running into a wall and splitting open.
Crazy? Maybe, but the more outlandish the image, the more likely you’ll remember the name.
The most important point is to include something prominent about the person’s face in your image. That’s how you link the name to the face.
So if Anna is wearing unique glasses, so should your banana. Or if she has a mole, your banana should too.
Peanut butter, jelly! Peanut butter, jelly… (sorry)
Substitute a Celebrity’s Name
Admittedly, sometimes people’s names don’t lend themselves well to objects.
For example, the other day I met an Alan and couldn’t think of a picture to match. So, I imagined Alan Thicke (from Growing Pains everybody!) running up and punching Alan in his rather large nose (with Alan’s surprise reaction included).
Crazy? Again, maybe, but I remembered his name.
Finally, if you can’t think of an image, simply repeat the name several times to yourself after you hear it or after you end the conversation. Not very sexy, but it still works.
I advise using image methods though, because once you get good, they’re much faster than the repetition method.
Won’t All This Take Too Long?
Well, your brain is able to flash images and relations together, so in theory this doesn’t take long.
What’ I’ve found though is at first, it takes getting used to. But like anything else, practice makes you efficient.
And if you feel you’re not doing it perfect at first, no worries. The fact you’re putting so much energy into the process alone will help you remember the person’s name.
You’ll soon be linking images to remember names while fully participating in the conversation.