How to remember names
I, like many of you, have a terrible time remembering names. Sometimes I have to ask three or four times, with great apologies, before I remember – if I remember.
True story: I have been living in my house for six years. I don’t know my next door neighbour’s name. But at this point I don’t feel that I can ask him, so I snuck over and looked in their mailbox. Unfortunately, there’s more than one man living there, so I couldn’t figure out which name was his and I still don’t know it.
It’s bad to forget names. One thing you always hear about successful people is that they “never forget a name.” Nobody ever says, “Oh, yeah. She was the best. She never remembered anyone’s name.”
Fast Company recently ran an article titled “10 people share the mistakes that cost them the job offer,” and one of the items on the list is a story from a candidate who forgot an interviewer’s name. In fairness, I think one should be able to play that off by saying, “I’m sorry. I’m a bit nervous and I’ve forgotten your name. Would you please tell me again?” And anyone who is not wholly forgiving of this is probably not someone you want to work for. Still, it’s even better not to forget.
I contacted memory expert Ron White to ask him for some tips on remembering names. White is a two-time memory champion – yes, there is a memory championship, apparently – and can memorize a shuffled deck of cards in one minute and 27 seconds. I’ve forgotten what I ate for lunch.
Here are White’s top five steps to remembering names.
1. Focus – “When you meet someone and three seconds later don’t remember what they said their name was it is not a memory problem. It is a focus problem. You weren’t listening! You were thinking about what they think of you, what you are going to say, what you will sell them if it’s business, your day, etc. In order to focus your brain every time you meet a new person, ask yourself this question as you are walking towards them, ‘What is their name?’ Don’t say this out loud.”
2. File – “Do you have files on your computer? Yes. Why? To retrieve info quickly instead of having everything cluttering your desktop. Your brain needs a file, a place to store the name. Select a distinguishing feature on their face (big nose, pretty eyes, beard, dimples, thick eyebrows, hairline, etc). This is will be your brain trigger, or file.”
3. Picture – “Create unique pictures for common names. For example:
Steve = stove
Lisa = Mona Lisa
Brian = brain
Matt = door mat
Karen = carrot
“It takes time to develop this mental database but commit to turn every name you learn over the next month into a picture. Everyone at the bank or restaurant who has a name tag, every billboard, every person you meet. Then after a month of this you will have turned hundreds of common names into pictures. Once you decide the picture for Steve = stove never change it and that is the picture for EVERY Steve. To get my free pictures for names enter your email address at www.ronwhitetraining.com (I have hundreds of pictures here for free.)”
4. Glue – “Action and emotion. Where were you on 9-11-01? You know. Why? Action and emotion. Where were you 9-28-01? You don’t know. Why? No action and emotion. With action and emotion see the picture for the name on the face. If the distinctive feature is the eyes and the name is Steve see a stove in his eyes with action and emotion. This means see the stove COOKING his eyes. If his distinctive feature is the ears then see that on the ears.”
5. Review – “Always go back and review at the end of the day. Who did I meet today? Review the file, picture and glue. Who did I meet last week? Review the file, picture and glue.”
Here’s a video of White remembering a crazy number of names and talking more about how he does it.