Remembering People

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gifele.gif (3048 bytes) Remembering people's names is something most of us find very difficult, and we do not help ourselves by saying over and over again, "I can never remember people's names."   gifele.gif (3048 bytes)

Don't be like Humpty-Dumpty
"I shouldn't know you again if we did meet," Humpty-Dumpty replied in a discontented tone, giving her one of his fingers to shake: "You're so exactly like other people."
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

There are various processes to go through to help to remember names, but as with all memory "tricks" they have to be practised over and over again before any great degree of proficiency is arrived at, so there has to be a lot of motivation to become good at learning and remembering names - it can't be achieved overnight or just by wanting to be good at it.
However, once you have found out which processes suit your way of remembering best, then you will find you are doing the learning automatically.

  1. Firstly, you must decide that learning names is going to be your number one priority at this particular occasion, be it social or business.
  2. Make sure you hear the name clearly. If you don't, then ask to be told it again straight away
  3. Try to use the name in your first few words of conversation with the person in question, and consciously listen to yourself saying the name.
  4. If you have a chance during the next few minutes, go into a corner and do some mental work on the name to get it fixed in your short term memory.
  5. Find out as many details about the person as you can, what their interests are, what they do for a living etc. The odds are that if they are interested in the mating habits of the South American anteater, then you will remember them quite easily, but if it is Manchester United then you will have to do some more probing.
  6. Over the next few days, do some more work on the names you want to remember, perhaps making a few notes on the occasion where you met them, what you spoke about etc., anything to get them fixed in your mind.
  7. Go over the names again at decreasing intervals, and they should then be fixed in your memory.  (But keep your notes just in case)

There are various ways of quickly making a mental note of the person and their associated name and you will find out by trial and error which suits you best.

  1. Pick out a physical characteristic of their face, bearing or figure which strikes you as their most dominant physical characteristic.
  2. In your mind's eye make a picture of this person, with this feature grossly exaggerated, wearing a notice round their neck with their name written on it in large letters.
  3. Quickly make an association with some aspect of their name (some are obviously a lot easier than others) and compose a mental picture of the person incorporating this feature. For example, someone called Bill Brown could be entirely brown coloured in your picture, and could have a bill like a bird instead of a nose and mouth.
    Another example: say you meet someone called Anne Sherman, you could associate the name Anne with Princess Anne and imagine your new acquaintance wearing a crown and riding in a Sherman tank.
    The more outlandish the picture, the more memorable it is.

Another method which you may prefer, is to think of someone else you know with the same name and make a mental association between the two people.

If you only need to remember the first name, then a good idea is to have a mental list of different people with all the common names.  
Then if you meet someone called William, you immediately see him shaking hands with Prince William and all the other chaps on the 'William' list, and fix that picture in your mind.
The next time you meet William, if you have made a strong enough mental picture and have reinforced it a few times, then the picture will immediately come unbidden into your mind, you will unhesitatingly call him William and he will say, "How clever of you to remember my name."

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