The mind is a very strange thing. It can remember the lyrics to a song we haven’t heard in ten years, but, unless we consciously work to remember it, our brain can’t recall the name of a person we just met, even if they’re still standing right in front of us. Of course, it’s incredibly difficult to consciously remember a name while simultaneously paying attention to the conversation at hand. We suggest employing some psychological tricks to make sure you remember names of everyone you meet and never forget them for the next time you run into each other.
1. Use the names often
When you meet someone, you’re most likely going to be introduced by a common friend or colleague. Resist the urge to just say “Nice to meet you,” and take it a step further, saying “Nice to meet you, Karen.” Try to sneak their name into conversation as often as possible (without sounding silly, of course). Not only should you repeat their name, but you should also make the effort to get to know them a bit more. Doing so not only humanizes them in your own eyes, but also helps make you aware that you’ll be seeing them again, and therefore their name is worth remembering.
2. Stay focused on the present
When engaged in a multi-person conversation, your mind is bound to wander at some point. (Especially if you’re in a meeting at work, am I right?). Consciously avoid allowing your mind to wander, especially when you’ve just met a new person. You don’t want your boss to introduce you to someone, and then have to say “I’m sorry, I forgot your name” almost immediately. It will give off the impression that you either weren’t listening when your boss was speaking, or that you’re absent-minded. When in social situations, your head should always be on a swivel, anyway. Keep your head in the game!
3. Think back to the moment you met
If you took the first piece of advice about using the name often, you’ll be able to use that moment to your advantage later on in conversation. It will be much easier to remember names when you recall saying “Nice to meet you, Karen” than it will be to remember your boss saying “Matt, I want you to meet Karen.” Just be careful that you don’t get lost in the conversation while trying to relive the beginning of it!
4. Associate it with a feature
Pick something out about the person you just met and connect it to their name. Or make up a silly rhyme about them in your head (just don’t let them know about the rhyme). Using a mnemonic is definitely a last-ditch effort, but if it works, it works. If you’re put in the unfortunate position of meeting more than one person at a time, check out their clothing and other features; use the color of their tie, their hair, beard, anything at all that could help. In your head, call them “Grey suit Mike” or “Brown tie Robert.” Just make sure to drop the modifier when you say their names aloud. And remember: They won’t be wearing the same thing next time you see them, so try to get their names down by the end of the first meeting.
5. Study their face
This one can be a little rude, but as long as you keep it to yourself, you should be okay. Everyone is unique in some way, so pick of the person’s unique quality and associate it with their name. Steve with the glasses, Rob with the bald spot. Like I said, it’s not exactly the most polite thing to do, but if it helps, use it. And, unlike using their clothing, they’ll most likely look the same the next time you see them. (And if not, you can always use the old “I hardly recognized you without your glasses!” trick).
6. Cross-reference their name with another person
If you happen to know anyone with that same name, picture the two of them meeting up and hanging out. Picture them doing something you know your friend is into; if your friend Mike likes to golf, and you just met someone else named Mike, picture them both golfing together. When you take new information in and associate it with information your brain already knows, it makes it easier to solidify the new in your mind.
7. Work on it consciously
Like I said before, when you meet someone new, you should work under the assumption that you’ll be seeing them again soon. Don’t let their name out of your head just because the meeting is over. Review the important points of your conversation, so you have more to remember the person by. Since you’ll know more than just their name after having a conversation with them, it should be easier to remember them as a whole person.
Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm6.staticflickr.com