Remembering Names

I want to improve my ability to remember people’s names. I did an internet search and found some common themes that seemed to fall into one of three categories:

a) We’re not focused
b) We don’t make the effort to learn
c) We’ve convinced ourselves we’re bad at remembering names.

We can work on the first issue by doing just that: Look into the person’s face and devote all your attention right now to meeting this person.

Once we’re focused on the person we can focus on the person’s name, and utilize all of the memory techniques in the books for leaning anything:

1) Repetition: Repeat the person’s name in your head and also out loud. Use it occasionally in conversation. Write the name down.

2) Association: Try to associate the name with things people tell you about themselves. The career or hobby will fix an association in our mind. Fred likes to fish.

3) Word games: Use word games like mnemonic devices (Dale works in sales) or alliteration (Jim from Jersey).

4) Imagery: Make up a story about the name that puts a picture in your head. Batya is stepping up to the plate swinging a baseball bat. Alternatively picture the letters written out.

5) If you’re at a party, introduce the new person right away to someone else you know.

As for the third issue – that we’ve convinced ourselves we’re bad at remembering names – the suggestion is to stop telling yourself this. Instead trust yourself that you can learn to do this, because you can! It just takes practice, and commitment – a conscious decision to remember people’s names.

I intend to implement these suggestions. However, I found that in everything I saw they left out one of the causes of forgetting names and therefore did not relate to what to do about it. I’m referring to the problem that I have and I imagine others as well, of forgetting a person’s name when you already know them too well to feel comfortable asking them to repeat it. I can get over the embarrassment if the person is relatively new to my experience. But when it passes the threshold of comfort, when it’s not only an embarrassment to me but would be an insult to the other person, what then?

The cause of forgetting names in this case is self-consciousness. Once, soon after I was engaged to my husband I wanted to introduce him to someone and I forgot his name! He obliged by saying his name was Arthur even though it’s actually Alan. Humor is always good, if you can manage to laugh at yourself.

But seriously, I’ve started to keep a distance and hold back for a minute before approaching the person in order to avoid the pressure of “Uh oh, I have to remember this person’s name.” I find that when I let myself relax it often comes to me. So I’m going to start this practice by keeping a distance at first if I see someone and just waiting for the name to come to me and then go up to them.

In addition to this I’m going to generally start using the person’s name more in conversation, especially when greeting the person not to just say “Hi” but to use the name. People like to hear their name. It’s such an easy way to make someone feel good.

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