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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.