We’ve all been there: You’re at a party or happy hour, meeting a new person every couple of minutes. You introduce yourself and visa versa, but three seconds later their name has already gone in one ear and out the other. It’s annoying, but it happens to the best of us. But what’s stopping you from being that one person at the party who meets someone and then calls them by their name a half an hour later? If you’re at a party, they’ll be impressed. If you’re at a work function, the gesture could potentially help you make an important business connection. So how can you get those names to stick? It’s actually not that hard. We chatted with Chester Santos, an international speaker on the topic of memory, and Richard Bowlder of City Memory to get the lowdown on some easy techniques you can use to actually remember names the first time you hear them.
1. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but when used, it can make a huge difference. Santos tells us, “Whenever you’re introduced to someone make it a point to immediately repeat their name and shake their hand. So if I was introduced to someone named Cortney, I’d shake your hand and say ‘Nice to meet you, Cortney’ or ‘Pleased to meet you, Cortney.’ Get into that habit and eventually it will become second nature to you. That forces you to pay attention for at least one to two seconds when the person is giving you the name. A lot of the time we’re not remembering someone’s name because when someone is introducing themselves to us we’re just not paying any attention to the name — our mind is elsewhere.”
2. Use their name soon after you meet. After the initial introduction, make it a point to use their name again once you start a conversation. Santos says to try something like “So Cortney, how do you know Chester?” He says, “Any simple question using the name early on in your interaction with the person is really going to help that name stick much better in your mind rather than just going in one ear and out the other.”
3. Imagine the person with someone else with the same name that you already know. Richard Bowdler tells us, “What you want to do is create an association. So with the word Richard, there’s nothing about that word and me that go together. So maybe think to yourself, ‘Do I know anybody with the same name as this person?’ It could be somebody you know or a famous person with the same name. Then imagine the person you’re meeting being stood side-by-side with the person you know or famous person with the same name.” Bowdler also advises that if you incorporate a more outlandish element to this type of association, it could help the name stick even better. For example, rather than meeting someone named Martha and envisioning her simply standing next to Martha Stewart, you could instead envision them having an epic food fight in a kitchen.
4. Create a memorable visual. Santos explains, “Say you meet a girl named Jane who has really nice hair. You could imagine that her hair is made of chain, with the chains clapping together making a really loud noise and hurting your ears. If you noticed her hair before you’ll notice it again and the image of the chain will come back. Then the chain might remind you of Jane.” Bowdler also suggests this technique. He mentioned that at a wedding he attended recently he met a Janet and a Kiki. For Janet he imagined her as a janitor. For Kiki he imagined her with two giant keys for earrings. However, Bowdler does warn that this technique isn’t foolproof. He says, “There was a lady who worked at golf club my father frequents. One gentleman was named Mr. Bunion. She had clearly created a visual association with bunion yet decoded that image into a different word. So he came up to the bar and she said, “Hello, Mr. Wart. How are you?”
5. Think of something that sounds the same. Here’s a tactic that can work particularly well for foreign sounding names. Bowdler tells us, “I am currently staying with a person named Aurika. It’s a Ukranian name and I don’t know anyone with that name but I know that her name sounds a little bit like Ulrika and I know a famous person named Ulrika Jonsson (a TV presenter in the UK).” He goes on to explain, “You can also figure out what that name sounds like. In this case it sounds a little bit like Eureka. So what I could imagine is this lady, Aurika in a bath maybe jumping out of the bath and screaming, ‘Eureka!’”
While these are some quick and easy ways you can work on remembering names, know that it’s not a one-time deal. It’s a process you have to implement every time you meet someone new. Bowlder puts it best when he says, “It’s a bit like saying, ‘How’d you get the dishes clean?’ You wash them.”
Have you ever tried any of these tactics? Which one works best for you? Share with us in the comments below.