I have an incredible memory. Do you want to know what someone ordered at lunch five years ago during a work meeting? I can tell you. How old are their kids, what sports do they play, and what are their favorite action characters? I can repeat it to you in a heartbeat. However, I regularly have to think, “wait, what is their name?”. Over time, I have learned that I am not the only one that struggles with this and therefore am going to share some of the things that I have tried to practice to remember names.
Commitment is the most important thing for me. So many times, and especially as we get older and more established in our careers, quirks become accepted. Is someone always late? Someone never remembers names? Someone doesn’t respond to e-mails quickly? It becomes part of our identity, but in reality, we can change these bad habits. I had to commit to learning names. I have to commit to focusing on this when first meeting people.
Sometimes there is something about a person that instantly makes me create a nickname in my head. I can remember the nickname because something immediately clicked with me and it stores in my head just like the other facts I can recall. However, while I love nicknames for those I am close to, I do try to avoid using them in professional settings. I have found the way to use the nicknames to my advantage and through association.
The easiest way I have found for me to remember someone’s name is by creating an association. Whether this association is from the nickname or a common link, it can help to place the person’s name in my memory. For instance, if someone shares a name with someone important to me, then I will try to find a common link with them. For example, Denice is my aunt's name; if I meet someone named Denice, I will try to see a similarity between them and my aunt.
Pause when you are approaching someone. Take a minute to think about where you know them from, what shared experience do you have, and then go through the previous steps of nicknames and association to try to recall what their name might be. I no longer assume I can’t remember a name. Instead, I genuinely try to take a moment to remember their name.
If I know I am going into an event with people that I have likely met in the past; I will go over basic facts about who will be there and what their names are. I will ask others that are with me if I cannot remember.
By using all these steps, it is much less likely that I draw a blank on someone’s name. Committing to this has been the most critical step for me. I hope these help you with a problem so many of us face!