I have such a hard time remembering names. I’ll sometimes know a person for weeks and have asked his or her name several times and still not remember!
Though this seems like an inconsequential quirk, it’s something I’ve been working to change because I believe it really means something to a person when you remember his or her name. When we moved into our current home and started attending a new church about a year ago, I was determined to remember names.
I know some of you also struggle to learn names, so I thought I would share with you the strategies I’ve found to be useful.
How to remember names
Keep a list
I think one reason I struggle to remember names is that I’m a visual learner and most of the time I hear names but I don’t see them (I can usually remember them if I see them written on nametags). Because of this, I started using a note app on my phone to keep track of names. When I return home after meeting a neighbor, I add his or her name to a note. When my husband and I ask the name of someone we interact with regularly at church, we add the name to another note. This has been so helpful! We can pull up the notes and review them whenever we need to. We include a brief statement about how we know the person (e.g., Jim Smith – neighbor in green house), so we remember which name goes with which person.
Mnemonics are memory devices that help us recall information. I’ve used a variety of these to remember names.
- When I met a tall woman named Theresa, I mentally linked her height—tall, which begins with a “T”—with her name, which also begins with “T” (“Theresa is tall”). When I see Theresa and her height, I recall her name.
- When a friend added another child to her family, I used an acronym to remember the names of the kids (“She has RED kids: Rebecca, Edward, and Derrek). I’m always able to recall the kids’ names because I remember the letters with which they begin.
- When I met a man named Lincoln, I visually pictured him next to the famous Abraham Lincoln. I’ll never forget Abraham Lincoln’s name, so every time I encounter this new acquaintance I’m able to recall his name because I mentally see this image of President Lincoln.
Repeat the name
In general, repetition is one of the most effective ways to learn things. I find it particularly useful when learning names. When I meet someone and ask his or her name, I always repeat it back. I then try to use it in conversation so I hear it again. If at any point I can’t remember it, I apologize and ask the person to state his or her name again. Then, when we part ways, I mentally repeat the name several times to make sure I’ve got it. This approach usually helps me commit names to memory.
Visualize the name being written
Because I’m a visual learner, it helps me to see the name in addition to hearing it. If I’m not able to write it down immediately, then I visualize the name being written. This helps me to “read” the name so it is more likely to stick in my mind. This strategy is especially helpful when I meet someone with an unusual name. In order to visualize the name, I must first ask the individual how to spell it. This means he or she will repeat the name (which integrates the repetition discussed above) and knowing how to spell it sometimes helps me pronounce it correctly.
I’m so glad I found some strategies that help me remember names! When I can look people in the eye and greet them by name, I believe it is easier for them to believe I care about them than when I have to sheepishly ask them to repeat their names again.
Does it make a difference to you when someone remembers your name? What strategies do you use to remember names?
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