How to Actually Remember People’s Names

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about three years First, my husband and I moved to a new neighborhood. One of the first people we met was a teacher who lives six doors away. Every time I see her walking with my two dogs, she wavers and says, “Hi, Lisa.” I smile, look back and say, “How’s it going?” or “What’s new?” After engaging in this almost daily ritual for so long, I’m ashamed to report that I can’t remember his name.

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i doubt i will ever be “Super-Identifier,” Someone with exceptional face recognition ability. Still, I set out to learn how to improve name recall with the help of two experts: a neurosurgeon and a world record holder in memory.

You know the face, why not the name?

this kind of study, From Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, suggest that we are better at remembering names than faces. In my case, the opposite is true. I would recognize a face, but his name escapes me. It turns out that one of the reasons for this is that I am not giving my brain a chance to process the information.


“The hippocampus is key to our ability to take two things that are not connected to our brains and put them together,” says Bradley Lega, MD, associate professor of neurological surgery at UT Southwestern/Texas Health Resources in Dallas. When you meet someone whose name and face aren’t already in your mind, your hippocampus plays a key role in putting these things together into a single memory. It gives you the ability to know how to address the person. The good news: Familiar names no longer rely on your hippocampus.

Recognize why it’s so hard to retrieve names

When you meet someone, you can focus on impressing the person with your skills and expertise rather than learning more about them. Them. You introduce yourself and shake hands or make a fist. But when you re-pass Person in the event, why do you create blank space?

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“One of the biggest problems is that people really don’t” Listen name,” says Kevin Horsley, a great master of memory and the author of Unlimited Memory. “They’re not really focused because they’re trying to be interesting instead of trying to be interested.” The bottom line is that it’s hard to associate a name when you haven’t taken the time to listen to it.

move from listening to learning

When you study a new subject in school or prepare for a presentation at work, it takes time to learn the material. It is unreasonable to assume that you can learn information once and be able to recall facts within minutes. Instead, you study and review the subject matter before the test or meeting with the client. The same applies to meeting someone once and expecting their name to pop into your mind. Lega describes it as a “tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon.” You can’t remember the name because you never learned it properly. There are a few ways to improve your ability to remember.

focus on recovery

It’s easy to retrieve what you took out of your mind a while back. Lega recommends getting back to someone immediately after your first meeting. At a party, you can say, “Hi Jill,” and then two minutes later say, “I’m sorry, did you say Jill?” This process is a predictor of whether you will come to know the name later or not. So memorizing the name once, whenever you can, goes a long way in helping you to consolidate it in your mind.

find something unique

Let’s say you meet a co-worker who has a similar name and you’re confident you won’t forget it. But when you pass the person down the hall a few hours later, you forget what they said. “The problem is that you haven’t made a cognitive effort,” Horsley says, “and because you haven’t made up the name in your mind, it will be the one you forget.”

After hearing someone’s name, repeat it again. You can say, “Nice to meet you, Bill,” then give some meaning to their name. In Horsley’s case, I could imagine a horse or, in my mind, hear the sound of a horse. He recommends hearing a person’s name and finding its significance within a time frame of 20 seconds.

pay attention to facial features

Discover an outstanding feature on someone’s face. Horsley gives the example of his nose. “You can imagine being like Kevin being ‘in the cave’—like my nose being punched,” he says. Doing something creative and adding that unusual image of a face can serve as a reminder the next time you get together.

Years ago, I was a guest on a local talk show, and the host mentioned her memory skills. He said, “I heard Kanarek, so I pictured a can around your neck.” While she wasn’t the kind of image I’d ever want to see, I understood the kind of connection she was making.

File names and notes electronically in one place

i mention apple notes App on my phone as my brain. When I think of an idea for an article or need to add something to my Costco list, I only have one place to look. Horsley gave me another use for the app. After meeting someone, enter their name, some facts about that person (their profession, number of children), and where you met. he also recommends Evernotehandjob Google keep, And Trello. If you keep the reminder nearby, you are more likely to review it.

see lists frequently

When I was a professional organizer, I urged clients to use to-do lists. For some, the process was a way to stay on track. Others claimed that the lists did not work, but later admitted that he never referred to them. If you’re trying to enter someone’s information, take the time to read the list, especially before an event. Horsley uses Apple Notes and sets a reminder for each Monday to view the folders she’s created. He sets another reminder two weeks later, then moves on until he has put the list in memory.

Other options include a Word document, Google Docs, or anything you already use and reference. “What you’re doing is meeting people again and recreating the experience of meeting,” Horsley says.

Use social media as a reminder

After meeting someone, without falling into the realm of stalking, ask to connect on social media. linkedin Ideal for business contacts while Facebook And instagram may provide more personal information. To prioritize the Tweets you see, you can create Twitter Lists of other accounts organized by subject, profession or interests. Even if someone hasn’t accepted your request, you can review their profile photo as a reminder before meeting again.

Several years ago, I joined a Facebook group for attendees at an upcoming comic writing convention. I replied to a woman who asked if anyone was connecting from her town and we agreed to look for each other at the airport. Before I reached the gate, I clicked on his post. Although he had added a cartoon mustache to his profile picture, I recognized him immediately.

change the way you think

While many conferences and business meetings are held online in person, take the opportunity now to hone your memory skills. With the profile name clearly visible, it’s easy to relate to a face during an online chat.

More importantly, consider changing your mindset. Like any skill, if you feel that you are incapable of mastering it, you may not try to improve it. “There is no such thing as a good or bad memory for names,” says Horsley. “There is only one good or bad memory strategy.”

Inspired by both experts, the next time I see my neighbor, I come clean. I’m asking for his name instead of commenting about the weather. This time, I’ll listen.

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