Remembering People’s Names

by Alexander Rorty

Remembering people’s names is one of the most important parts of social etiquette. Even if we don’t admit it, we dislike when people can’t remember who we are. One remembers the scene in American Beauty when Kevin Spacey’s character says, “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t remember me either”. Having one’s name forgotten makes them feel unimportant.

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to remember the names of lots of people. However, there are some fairly straightforward tricks you can do to help you jog your memory. Most of them come from the tricks of medieval poets who had to remember long lines of verse. The trick is that, while sounds (especially arbitrary sounds, like names) are difficult to remember, patterns and images are very easy to remember.

Some of these tricks will work better or worse for you, depending on how your mind works. Pick and choose from the following list:

Make a rhyme: Take the person’s first name and rhyme it with something starting with another word starting with the first letter of the person’s last name. So, for example, if the person’s name is “Jane Smith”, think of the name as “Jane Smane”. The rhyme will stick more easily in your mind than the actual name, and you’ll be reminded of the name when you hear it.

Turn it into a number: If you’re one of those people who is very good at remembering numbers, but not names, just turn the initials into a number. Every letter of the alphabet can be mapped onto a number from 1 to 26. So, when you meet Jane Smith, you can turn her name into 1019. With a little practice, you can easily remember everyone’s initials, which can be used to remember the names. Don’t forget to use zeros, so that you’ll always have a four-digit number. For example, Andrew Barnes should be 0102.

Use an image: If you don’t remember rhymes or numbers very well, try using an image instead. In these cases, what you should do is to think of something that sounds similar to the person, and then imagine that thing right on the person’s face. So, for example, Jane sounds a little like “chain”, so when you meet Jane smith, imagine a chain going from her nose to her ear, for example. It takes a little imagination, but once you’re good at it, you’ll be able to recall anyone’s name with ease.

Different people remember differently. However, for most people, rhymes, numbers and images are easier to remember than the arbitrary strings of sounds in which names normally consist. The above three tricks can help you remember others’ names.

About the Author

Alexander Rorty, M.A. has been writing articles on the internet since 1997. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Janet, and their two children. Their latest site is called Island Hood, and features articles such as the one on under-cabinet range hoods.

7 thoughts on “Remembering People’s Names”

  1. My brother-in-law has this uncanny ability to remember things. If you give him a list of 25 items, he will remember them all…in order. Maybe he uses some of these techniques.

  2. I have to remember a lot of peoples names, what I try and do is remember their initials and then come up with something that will help me remember 2-3 alphabetic initials (images, sayings, a physical feature). This usually helps me remember their full names for some reason. Something I picked up from a college professor.

  3. I was at a childrens party recently, where there was an childs entertainer doing tricks and games with them, if was part of a franchise chain you have probably heard of – There where about 25 kids in the room, and I was amazed the entertainer could remember and call all their names within about 15 minutes. I struggle with names, so this really stuck out to me, and so I asked how on earth they managed this, and I was told that he too was rubbish with names and its a skill you learn rather than “natural” he was taught during his franchise training so first notice one unique thing about each child, then ask their name – somehow it links up in your mind!

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