Updated May 18, 2022

Tricks and Tips to Remember Names

Best ways and tricks to NOT forget someone's name

Struggling with remembering names is frustrating. What can help you? Science-backed tricks for improving name recall.

First, realize why there's emotion tied into the sound of a name.

"A person's name is the sweetest and most important sound to that person." This is a line by Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Remembering names is communicating to others that they're important. In turn, you'll be more memorable to them.

Check out these fun ways to improve your name game.

Repeat and Practice the Names You Learn

Repetition is the mother of learning. Practice is a helping hand.

Here's how to apply them.

Repeat the Name
The most tried and true method of remembering another person's name is simple: repetition.

You might recall the name game from summer camp. A study tested students' recall of their classmates' names after participating in the game. They found that participants remembered 75% of the names after 30 minutes.

To put this in practice, make a point of saying the name after you first hear it. And say it again during the conversation.

Write It Down
Writing things down works well for remembering names. In a way, it's like learning—you are learning a name and face new to you.

Researchers Margaret H. Thomas and John N. Dieter found that writing helped their subjects remember foreign words with more accuracy. In comparison to those who didn't write at all.

It can be awkward to pull out a pen and paper at a cocktail party. So, type out the names on your phone when you can.

Introduce People
A good tactic is to hold yourself accountable. Take it upon yourself to introduce new acquaintances in a group setting.

You're mingling at a cocktail party and you've made a friend at the bar. Introduce them to one of your friends. This will give you the chance to repeat their name. And it's the polite thing to do!

Practice Retrieving the Name
Researchers have found that practicing memory retrieval helps with long-term memory. The more you focus on new information and try to recall it, the more likely you are to remember it.

Say you're overwhelmed because you're meeting new people. You can turn your attention away by repeating people's names. Do this until you can name them without hesitation.

Spell It
A trick that memory experts commonly use is spelling.

When someone tells you their name, ask them to spell it for you. It shows a genuine interest in their name. And, as a bonus, gives you time to focus on the letters that make it up.

Of course, if their name is Tim, it might come off as a little disingenuous. So, use this technique at your own discretion.

Make Name Connections and Associations

Your brain works by making connections. So, you can help it do that for better memory.

Here are a few ways to connect names.

Look, Snap, Connect
Most people agree that it's easier to remember a person's face than a name. The brain has a whole region that's dedicated to recognizing faces. But none dedicated to remembering names.

Gary Small, a psychiatry professor, suggests the look, snap, connect technique in his book, The Memory Bible. He recommends people snap a photo in their mind. This helps lock in any distinguishable features and visual name associations. Then, connect the two into one image for future recollection.

If you meet a Harry who happens to have a big nose, you can snap a hairy nose. Next time you see them, you'll subconsciously think of that and remember their name. But don't let them know that!

Associate It with a Famous Person
This technique is a lot similar to look, snap, connect.

Think of a famous person with the same name and similar physical attributes. So, if you meet a Jason, consider a celebrity who shares their name (i.e. Jason Statham).

Pair the It with a Bizarre Image
Another popular way to remember a person's name is the bizarre imagery technique. It was first coined by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas, authors of The Memory Book.

The technique is based on the premise that if something isn't memorable, you can make it so by attaching an absurd image to it. The image can be based on anything—an anecdote they told you, their occupation, the way they dress, etc.

If Sal has an iguana, you can attach the image of an iguana with a salt shaker on his head to him.

Is it clever? Not really.

But is it memorable? Definitely.

Connect It to Prior Knowledge
In psychological language, schemas are how your brain organizes and interprets information. Researchers have found that a person's ability to connect new information to a schema helps them encode information in their long-term memory.

Putting this concept into action is easier said than done. The key lies in connecting people's names to prior knowledge.

Your new acquaintance may have the same name as the lead singer of your favorite band. Or a name that rhymes with your sister's.

Making the connection helps your brain store the name in your long-term memory. Rather than letting it languish in your short-term memory bank.

Chunking Technique for Groups of People

Chunking is the practice of organizing new information into a chunk or pattern. So that it's more memorable.

This technique is attributed to neuroscientist Daniel Bor. It's used to memorize things from grocery lists to number sequences.

For instance, you're meeting your floormates for the first time. You can remember their names by creating an acronym from their initials. You're essentially chunking information into a pattern that makes sense.

Make a Name Game

In a group setting, consider initiating a friendly competition to see how many names each of you can remember.

A study revealed that remembering names using a point system improved memory. If you make a game of your networking events, you might find that your memory isn't as bad as you thought.

Show Care by Paying Attention

Have you ever considered that maybe you're not bad with names?

Maybe you just don't care.

Richard Harris, a psychology professor, believes that people's ability to remember a name lies in their motivation and level of interest. Simply put, people have an infinite amount of memory for things they care about. But can't remember a person's name minutes after meeting them.

According to Harris, if a person is genuinely interested in someone, they are more likely to remember their name.

General Tips for Improving Memory

Failing to remember names is sometimes a result of general memory trouble.

Memory problems are present in many people. This is why scientists are always working on finding ways to improve it. Here are some proven tips for improving recollection.

Eat Healthy Food
Just like a fine-tuned car, your brain needs quality fuel in order to function at its highest ability.

Certain foods have been scientifically proven to aid in brain function and memory. These include foods that contain flavonoids, magnesium, or acetylcholine.

In fact, eating junk food has been shown to decrease memory and cognitive ability. A study says this can happen in just a week.

Meditate
Meditation is good for the soul and memory.

A study tested meditation newbies after they participated in mindfulness meditation for eight weeks. They found structural differences in their brain during meditation and afterward. The subjects displayed more control over a brain wave which helps in rapid memory recall.

Try Not to Stress
Stress doesn't just affect your health, but it also affects how your brain functions and stores short-term memories.

A study demonstrated that rats with high levels of stress had worse short-term memory.

Managing your stress can help your brain function at its optimum ability. This means you'll have more control over what you remember and what you forget.

Get Good Sleep
Sleep has been proven time and time again to be essential for memory consolidation. Sleep is the brain's opportunity to make new connections between synapses.

During slow-wave sleep, the brain replays events during the day. This includes facts like a person's name.

Drink Caffeine
Caffeine doesn't just help you stay alert. It's also been proven to help in long-term memory.

A John Hopkins University study found that people tend to remember better when drinking coffee. Caffeine made them less likely to forget within a 24-hour period.

Chew Gum
Smacking gum might be considered a rude habit. But it's been scientifically proven to help in concentration and recall.

A study tested 75 subjects. They found that those who chewed gum throughout the experiment showed significantly better memory. The study suggests that chewing gum is helpful while taking in information and recalling.

Chewing gum might not be appropriate for all contexts. In a class or at a business meeting, you should probably not chew or do it discreetly. But at a friendly get-together, chewing gum will keep your breath fresh and help your memory.

Bottom Line

Failing to remember new names is a tale as old as time. Tricks like repeating it, spelling it, associations, and games can help with it.

Long term, it's best to focus on general memory improvement. This way, you'll be able to recall names painlessly.

Changing your habits and practicing mnemonics are all helpful for remembering a new name. But the first step should be to care to remember in the first place.

Cassy Parker is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Cassy Parker at cassy@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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Comments about Tricks and Tips to Remember Names
  • moneystepper from England
    on December 2014 said:

    Awesome list - I find the most effective method for me is #4. As soon as possible, I try to introduce new contacts to someone else where possible as not only does this open up the conversation, it also really helps me cement the new contact's name.

    Also, if you've forgotten the person's name immediately (you may have missed it), then introducing them to someone you know, you can say "meet John, he's xxx". Then, the new contact will almost always introduce themselves and you get a second bite at the cherry!! :)

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