You met Beth minutes ago but already you can’t remember her name. Forgetting names is one of the top memory complaints of adults. Here’s how to get your brain in gear for better name recall…
Prime your brain to pay attention. If you know in advance that you will be meeting a lot of new people, make sure you’re well rested. Your memory doesn’t work as well when you lack sleep. Also: Limit your intake of alcohol. Alcohol has been shown to impair our ability to learn new information. Too much caffeine or sugar can be overstimulating and make it harder to concentrate on what you’re learning.
Repetition. When you are introduced to Tom, say, “Hi, Tom. It’s nice to meet you.” Continue to repeat his name in the course of the conversation. Say, “Tom, where do you live?” Repetition is a simple and straightforward way to help you remember something.
Use a simple association strategy. Find a connection to something familiar. If you meet a Barbara, think of Barbara Bush, Barbra Streisand or your cousin Barbara. Making a connection between something that you know and something that you’re learning is a powerful way to remember.
Create a visual association. If you meet someone named Robin, you might picture a red “robin” bird. By creating a snapshot in your mind, you are less likely to forget.
Tell yourself a story. Make up a silly little one-liner to go with the name. Think, “Kristen kissed Kris Kringle.” When you see her again, this line will come back to you. “Oh right, Kristen kissed Kris Kringle.” If it’s easy for you to be creative, storytelling is a great way to amplify your memory.
Make a mental movie. If you meet someone named Frank Hill, you might imagine frankfurters marching over a hill. The more absurd and bizarre the image, the more memorable it’s going to be.
When You Forget
In spite of all your best efforts, sometimes you are going to forget someone’s name.
Make a deal with your significant other or someone from work—“If I am talking to someone you don’t know and I don’t introduce you within 15 seconds, stick out your hand and introduce yourself.”
Admit that you don’t know. Say, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.” The person might turn around and say, “Gee, I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name either.” Everyone forgets sometimes.
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