5 Tips for Remembering Names

Photo: WIll White

My husband has always said that I am great at remembering many details about the people we meet. One of the most important and basic things you should remember about someone new is his or her name. Here are some of my personal tips for remembering names; hopefully they will help you avoid an awkward "I know you from somewhere" moment. (See also: Remember Where You Parked Your Car and More: 35 Practical Uses of a Digital Camera)

Look for Distinguishing Features

When I meet someone, I always look for something unique in the way they look or act. The trick is to pick some feature that starts with the same letter as their name. For example, if someone has a very distinct mole and his name is Michael, then you can associate "mole" and "Michael" mentally. I have also memorized some people's names based on their left-handedness, the way they walked, or their accents. Try to find a feature that isn't easily changed.

Associate a Name With an Occupation

Usually people tell you what they do for a living. I find that it's often easier to remember occupations than names because there is always a story to that occupation. All you have to do is to weave a person's name into your mental image of that person's occupation. For example, if a person tells you that he or she is a nurse, imagine that you are at a hospital and that person has a nametag on with that name on it. You should be able store that image into your head and bring it up more easily later than just recalling a random name.

Repeat and Reintroduce

When you just meet someone new, try to say their name a few times while talking to them. Repetition always aids your memory, so introduce that person to some of your friends. You can also ask people to spell their names if you don't have nametags. If someone has an unusual name, it is especially helpful to get the pronunciation correct by repeating the name a few more times.

Associate Real Words With Names

Many names aren't real dictionary words, and that makes them harder to remember. If you see a person's name and associate it with a real word, somehow it is much easier to remember. For example, when I hear a name like Jaden, I think of the word "jade," and I associate the color green with that person. When I hear "Gladys," I think of gladiolas and associate that flower with the person's face.

Use Social Media

If you happen to like people you just met, you could friend them on Facebook or Twitter, where they will have pictures of themselves and links to their personal sites. At blogger meet-ups I have asked people for their Twitter handles and permission to friend them on Facebook or LinkedIn. When you have faces and names show up on your social media feed, then it is much easier to remember who they are when you see them in person. For the most part, I do prefer adding people who I have met in real life to my Facebook, and I find it to be a great tool to keep people's images and names fresh in my mind.

What are your tips for remembering names of new people in your life? What do you do when you can't remember someone's name in a social situation?

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Guest's picture

Your tips for remembering names is great. I'm really good at recognizing faces, but I don't remember names very well at all.

My biggest difficulty, though, is not trusting myself. Sometimes, even when I think I remember someone's name, I don't use it becuase my memory is faulty enough I'm worried I'll be wrong. "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Any suggestions for that?

Guest's picture

The first tip is kinda bad. If someone has a mole and you remember him by that feature you might call him "mole".

Guest's picture

In the off chance that you actually do forget someone's name, the best way to circumvent those awkward moments when it's pretty obvious you don't remember is to simply be honest and tell the other person that you're sorry, but you've forgotten their name. Just make sure to remember it the second time around, there's really no getting around this a second time.