Have you ever met someone, only to forget their name moments after your introduction? It can be embarrassing, especially if they say your name during your time together. Why is it that they know your name, but you have no idea if they’re “Martin” or a “Greg”?
The inability to recall another person’s name is a common experience. Experts say that it happens frequently and unfortunately worsens with age; 85% of middle-aged and older adults regularly encounter this awkward situation. Whether you blame it on age, a busy lifestyle or just a poor memory no matter what, forgetting someone’s name doesn’t have to be an expected norm. There are ways to improve your recall so you don’t always refer to Betty as “hey you!”
1. Create a rhyme game
Rhyming is often an effective way to recall a name. In many cases, it’s as easy as developing a rhyme that simultaneously reminds you of what the person does. Perhaps “Ross is the boss” of a company where you’re interviewing. Maybe “Jen uses a pen” is fitting because that person is a writer. Doreen, who may be a new IT person, could be remembered as “Screen Doreen” because she knows her way around the world of computer screens and related technologies. Or, if Doreen is not a kind person, maybe “Mean Doreen” is more appropriate.
2. Match names with a person’s primary characteristic
This tactic is all about taking a personality trait or physical characteristic and matching it with a person’s name. For example, if you meet someone who you think always takes an odd stance on a topic and his name is Stan, that’s easy to remember because “Stan” likes to take a different “stan”(ce) during conversations. I find it almost uncanny how many people have names that truly match their personalities—such as a cheerful woman named Joy or a person who tells it like it is and is named Frank.
3. Have some celebrity fun
Do you love the celebrity world? If fame intrigues you, then why not make remember names something fun instead of a task you dread? Sometimes it’s as simple as a small gesture or mannerism that’s reminiscent of an actor for you to remember that the “Bob” you just met reminds you of Robert DeNiro. Does someone you were just introduced to have a speaking pattern that makes you think of a comedian’s delivery? Maybe a celebrity you find attractive has the same name as a good looking new friend. Find ways to create associations that draw parallels with famous people (whether you use their real names or character names).
4. Use alliteration
Alliteration—putting words together that both start with the same letter—is another memorable way to remember names. Nagging Nancy, Showy Susan, Pleasant Peter, and Moody Mike are all examples of how you can recall someone’s name. Blending a personality trait that happens to start with the first initial of their name can make it easier for you to Remember Names.
5. Turn to nature
If you’d rather be kayaking or birdwatching instead of indoors at a company or family gathering, make the most of it and let nature enter the picture. If Brooke is a non-stop talker, Remember Names her as “Babbling Brook.” If neighbor Rocky has very pointed eyebrow arches, consider thinking of the Rocky Mountains, which take on the same pattern. Have fun here. A few arm moles may form a popular star pattern that reminds you of a name (for example, Orion’s belt and the similar-sounding “Ryan”).
6. Think of opposites
Have you ever said that someone just “looks like” a certain name only to be surprised to learn their actual name is the complete opposite of what you think constitutes a “Joe” or “Beth”? Use that to your advantage, since sometimes a name that’s the polar opposite of what you anticipated can make it more memorable. It’s similar to a dog named “Zebra” or a distracting, busy painting with a calming title. So if you feel as though most Joes you’ve met are happy-go-lucky and then meet one who is not, this drastic difference could be what helps you boost your recall.
7. Be honest
Finally, many people are afraid to ask a person to repeat their name for fear of embarrassment. But if a great deal of time passes, it’s awkward to essentially say “I’ve been speaking with you for three months now, but what’s your name again?” Such a scenario could end up being more embarrassing than just asking for a repeated introduction early on in the encounter. While it’s not exactly a creative idea, asking someone their name a few moments after they said it can be a refreshing change of pace for the person being asked. It conveys that you’re genuinely interested in getting to know them, choosing to Remember Names instead of letting slight humiliation get in the way.