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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."
|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.
- Firstly, you must decide that learning names is going to be
your number one priority at this particular occasion, be it social or business.
- Make sure you hear the name clearly. If you don't, then ask to
be told it again straight away
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Pick out a physical characteristic of their face, bearing or
figure which strikes you as their most dominant physical characteristic.
- 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.
- 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
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
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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