One of the most common tasks we do as social beings is to meet new people in different settings — parties, the workplace, in class, or in some other social group. So it’s no surprise that one of the skills that will be of benefit in life is to remember other people’s names.
Yet, many people seem to have trouble remembering a new person’s name.
So how do you get over this problem? It’s easier than you may think.
It helps by beginning with the understanding that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. “Oh, I can never remember a new person’s name!” Setting yourself up for failure with this kind of negative thought won’t help. So you need to put that thought aside and embrace a new one: “I can remember new people’s names. It’s just a new skill I can learn, like I learned how to use a computer.”
Starting with this kind of new, positive attitude will go a long way to helping you be successful in learning this new skill. Success won’t come all at once — you need to practice at this skill, and understand you will not be 100 percent perfect on your first outing.
Keep in mind, not all names may need remembering. Someone you meet at a party that you’ll never see again may not need the same kind of attention that a new colleague’s name should get. You may not remember everyone’s name with the following research-driven techniques, but they should help you remember some of them better.
1. Be in the moment.
Being in the moment or utilizing the concept of mindfulness is the foundation for priming your mind to remember something. If you’re not paying attention — or, worse, half-paying attention — your memory isn’t really ready to accept new information.
Stop what you’re doing or whoever else you’re speaking to, and give your full attention to the new introduction. Focus on the new person in front of you, and hearing their name.
2. Repeat their name.
While it may seem silly to do, many people’s memory is helped by repetition. Repeating a name after you hear it may help your mind better retain the new information.
You don’t have to repeat their name aloud more than once, but you can continue repeating it within your own head a few more times just for good measure.
3. Associate the name with some personal characteristic.
Sometimes mnemonics help people remember something better. You could turn their name into a little game about something you learned about them while talking to them. Kelly shares with you a story about being on a yacht for the first time. So you could turn that into:
K – Kelly
E – Enjoys
L – Lotsa
L – Long
Y – Yachts
and then picturing Kelly lounging on a yacht in your mind.
You don’t have to create a mnemonic in order to use this technique. Associating the person with just some image in your mind can also help on its own. If Kelly mentioned she has a lot of cats, you could imagine her as the crazy cat lady at home. She’ll never know if you use such imagery to try and remember her name.
Yes, such a game takes some practice to do quickly and thoughtfully. But by picturing the person in some situation in your imagination, you’re creating a visualization that may help you remember their name more readily in the future.
4. Use the new name soon — and when you part.
After you’ve been introduced and repeated their name (perhaps as a question, to ensure you’ve heard it correctly), you should then use it while talking to them. “So, John, what do you think of that new robot that can burp a baby?”
This again gives your mind a chance to imprint the name into your memory, associating their face and voice with the new name. As they’re talking, repeat their name in your own mind again.
When you’re ending your conversation with them, repeat their name one last time. “It was great talking with you Kelly, see ya.” This helps put that name into your memory one last time.