You’re introduced to a friend of a friend and two sentences into the conversation you have completely forgotten their name. Suddenly you lose all ability to pay attention to the conversation while your mind races for a way to figure out their name. We’ve all been there. I’ve been there more than I care to admit and only recently did I realize that this disease of forgetting names is actually quite curable.
Here are three easy steps I’ve learned for how to remember names and details about people you meet.
1. Care About People
I shouldn’t even have to write this, but if you don’t care about the people around you, you’ll never be good at remembering their names. People easily forget about things they attach no importance to. You can learn to care more about people by losing yourself in the service of others, but that’s a topic for another time.
2. Remember To Follow Through
The same way a good golf swing requires more than just striking the ball, you’ll remember names far better if you follow through. Thurlow Weed, the man who is given credit for mentoring William H. Seward, understood this principle well. He was concerned that he “lacked a native facility for remembering names and appointments.” As a result, he consciously trained his memory by spending 15 minutes every night recalling everyone he met and everything that was said. It’s no surprise he became especially well known for his amazing ability to remember information.
Every night I like to give myself a few minutes to remember as many details as I can about my day. Once or twice a week I also try to see how many days I can go back and recall using the same technique. This constant exercise has proven to be the vital follow through I needed in order to improve my memory. Now when I meet someone new, I instinctively attach more value to names and details because I know I will be going over them later. Thank you, Mr. Weed!
3. Say The Name Out Loud
One of my favorite, yet extreme, examples of this is Anna Faris in House Bunny. If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that when someone new introduces themselves to her, she gets a serious look on her face and repeats the name in her deepest, raspiest voice possible. It’s pretty hilarious. She claims it helps her remember names better. While it might just be a funny quirk to add dimension to the personality of her main character, it is directly in line with a simple truth. If you repeat a person’s name back when they introduce themselves, you are much more likely to remember it.
Think of a person’s name as a key to your conversation. Once they give it to you, use it once or twice throughout the conversation to keep it going. The quicker you commit a name to memory, the more you can focus on the details of the actual conversation.
Repeating names not only helps you focus and remember, it’s also an excellent way to build better relationships. In Dale Carnegie’s book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, he teaches that “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Remember, care about people, follow through, and say the name out loud. If you still struggle, there is no shame in openly admitting you are trying to be better. Everyone learns at their own pace. Even the slowest progress is better than no progress.
If you struggle with remembering names and details, I would love to hear your experiences trying these tips. Let me know how it goes in the comments below. What other methods do you have for remembering names and details?