You’ve just started a new job. Your boss takes you around to meet the team. One by one, she introduces you to your new co-workers. And one by one, you instantly forget their names.
Replace that scenario with any number of situations—meeting a new client, running into an old colleague, getting acquainted with your server—and the result is the same. No matter what you do, you just can’t seem to recall people’s names.
You feel awful. Blanking on someone’s name whom you’ve met before—or even just been introduced to—feels rude and totally embarrassing.
“But my memory is terrible,” you think. “There’s just nothing I can do about it.”
And that’s where you’re wrong.
According to Jim Kwik, the CEO of Kwik Learning and a memory and speed-reading expert, “There is no such thing as a good or bad memory, there is just a trained memory and an untrained memory, meaning memory is not something that you have, it’s something that you do.” Kwik says memory is a process. “We know memory is not fixed, like your shoe size, it’s something that you can grow.”
Good news, right?
So, how can you grow in your ability to remember names, specifically? Read on to find out.
1. Repeat a new name right away.
When you first learn someone’s name, immediately repeat it back to them. So, for example, if you’ve just been introduced to someone named Tina, you could say, “Hi, Tina. Nice to meet you.” Or, “How long have you worked in the marketing department, Tina?” This forces you to focus and make a concerted effort to learn their name. And it makes future recall easier.
2. Connect the name to something you already know.
You can commit a new name to memory simply by linking it to a person or thing that’s already stored in your memory. The name Ben might remind you of Big Ben in London, the actor Ben Stiller, or your brother whose name is also Ben. “Thinking of a connection between the name and literally anything that you already know will really help the name to stick well in your mind,” says Chester Santos, “The International Man of Memory” and the author of Instant Memory Training for Success.
3. Find your motivation.
Kwik suggests motivation is the force that drives memory. He says, “If you aren’t clear with yourself that it is important for you to remember a new acquaintance’s name, you won’t.” And he provides a thought experiment to prove his point.
“Imagine that there is a suitcase of $100,000 cash—$100,000 cash for you or the charity of your choice if you just remember the name of the next person you meet. Are you going to remember that person’s name? Of course you are. You are going to be a memory expert. So it has nothing to do with your capacity or potential. It has to do with your intrinsic understanding of why it matters. Reasons reap results in remembering names.”
4. Create an image.
Ron White, a two-time national memory champion, recommends creating images for names. He explains that people are often better at remembering faces because your mind has an easier time remembering what it sees than what it hears. Therefore, in order to get better at recalling names, you need to start “seeing” names.
The image can be whatever you want, but it helps if it somehow relates to the name. For instance, Kelly might be “key,” Candice might be “cactus,” and Walter might be “Walmart.” “Once you choose an image for a name, the key is to use that image for the rest of your life for that name,” says White.
5. Routinely review names.
Reviewing names will commit them to long-term memory. So if you’re driving past a building or home where you’ve met someone, try to recall their name. And routinely ask yourself who you met in the past day or week.
If it helps you to write names down, do it! Just make sure to also write down the image, person, and/or object you’ve associated with them as well.
Next time you meet someone, put these tips in action. You may be surprised at how good your “bad” memory can be!
Do you have other tricks to add? Let us know in the comments!