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4 Strategies To Help You Remember Names

Do you find it awkward when you’re unable to recall someone’s name - especially when they remember yours?

While some people seem to have an inherent talent for remembering names, not all of us are that fortunate. But, the good news is you can learn this important social skill and with practice, master it.

Dale Carnegie, well known for his approach to business success, formulated a 3-step method for remembering peoples’ names. Step 4, although not Dale Carnegie’s, will also help.

Try these strategies to help you memorize names the first time you meet someone:

1. Immediately start imprinting the person’s name in your mind. Unfortunately, when we first meet someone new, we tend to focus on being polite or making a good impression. It’s more advantageous to focus, instead, on the person’s name. Pay close attention to their name and make eye contact with them as you restate it.

  • If you don’t catch the name, state something like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name; could you repeat it?” Then, when they say their name, say it back to them to ensure you get it right, like, “Oh, it’s very nice to meet you, Jane Doe.”

  • As you continue the conversation, use the person’s name once or twice again. For example, “Well Jane, what do you think about…”; “It was good to meet you Jane.”

2. Repeat the name over and over. After you've said the name of the person back to them, repeat it to yourself — “Jane Doe, Jane Doe, Jane Doe.”

  • What you’re now doing is applying a basic rule of memory theory – if you want to remember something, repeat it over and over again to impress it into your short-term memory.

  • To solidify the name into your memory, repeat it to yourself throughout the day, evening and even the next day. Doing so will help you transfer the information into your long-term memory bank. Think, “Last night, I met Jane Doe and John Smith.”

  • When you meet up with another friend at the social event, mention, “I just met Jane Doe; she’s the woman with red hair and blue dress over there.” Any type of repetition of the person’s name will help you remember it later.

3. Connect the name to an image in your mind. This strategy is very powerful. Make a mental picture of the person that will help you remember their name.

  • For example, if the person’s name is Rose Black, imagine her sitting on a black stallion holding a bouquet of roses. Carnegie stressed that the more elaborate and nonsensical your mental picture, the more likely you are to recall the person’s name.

  • Of course, there will be times whenever the person’s name is not a common object (like Rose) or color (like Black). During those times, there is all the more reason to visualize a quirky picture that will help you remember the person’s name.

  • For example, if a person’s name is Gloria Armstrong; imagine her singing the hymn, “Gloria” while pumping iron (think “arms strong”). The wackier your mental picture visualizing the person, the more likely it is you’ll remember their name.

4. Use technology. Use your smartphone’s voice recording app to repeat a person’s name and a brief description of their characteristics.

  • If you don’t have voice recording capability, type in a quick note of the person’s name, where you met him, and some facts about him.

Whether you decide to use some or all of these steps to remember names, you’ll increase your ability to recall someone’s name later. Try it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how successfully you recall names of people you’ve only briefly met.

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