Have you ever encountered that awkward social situation when you run into someone you’ve met several times, but can’t remember their name? If you have you are definitely not alone. Thankfully, there are “name-recognition tactics” and different kinds of name associations that you can utilize if you want to enhance your ability to remember names.

Name-Recognition Tactics

Jill Spiegel, author of How to Talk to Anyone About Anything, explains how normal it is to forget the names of all the different people we meet, “When we first meet someone we’re taking in so much visually and emotionally. They say their name, but it’s up there floating in our heads.”

name associations

There are a few simple name-recognition tactics that can help you become more conscious of the various names you may encounter on a daily basis. As you rehearse certain tips, you will be able to more easily store names into your long-term memory. Additionally, because so many names can blend together, these strategies can help distinguish Bob your co-worker from Bryan your neighbor.

Repeat. The best way to remember a name is to consistently repeat it, whether you say it in your head or out loud. You could even implement this strategy throughout the conversation with the person by saying things like, “How are you Bill?” or “It is nice to meet you Bill.” The familiarity of the name will eventually stick. I personally like to say the name right after I’m introduced, ex. “Hi I’m Bill…It’s nice to meet you Bill.”

Associations. Name associations can also be helpful. You can try connecting someone’s name to something they like or something they do. This association game is often used as a common “ice-breaker.” For example, you can remember your friend Katie’s name by remembering that she likes Kittens, or you can remember your pal Daisy’s name by recalling that she is a florist.

Ask to be Reminded. A simple strategy is to ask someone to remind them of their name. You shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to kindly ask someone to repeat their name. To ensure that you don’t come across as rude, you could say something like, “I have had such a great time talking to you that I’ve forgotten you name. What was it again?” I like to use, “I’m sorry, remind me of your name.” This approach is simple enough and ensures the person that you truly have an interest in getting to know them. Plus, if you didn’t ask it could become even more uncomfortable for you the next time you happen to run into that person.

Visual Hooks and Name Associations

remembering a name

Putting visual hooks to names and faces are helpful in the same way that name associations can be useful when remembering names. Creating visual hooks can be broken down into three main steps that will ultimately make a person’s name more memorable:

  1. First, you should find a prominent feature on a person’s face that sticks out to you. For example, you just met a guy named Mark and you notice that he has spikey hair. The spikey hair can be the prominent feature that you take note of.
  2. Next, you need to turn the person’s abstract name into a visual image. For example, the name Mark can be transformed into the image of marking with an X. Mark becomes the visual act of marking.
  3. Then, you attach the image to the notable feature on the person’s face. In this example, you can picture Mark’s spikey hair being marked with X’s. Having this very specific picture in mind will make Mark’s name more memorable.

It takes time to master the strategy of creating quick visual hooks that apply to name associations, but the only way you can truly determine if this is a helpful tool for you to use is by testing it on the new people you meet. There are also videos online that provide more examples of these visual hooks so that you can get a better idea of how they work. With practice, you could successfully become a master at remembering names!

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Alexandra Zuccaro


Los Angeles

Alexandra Zuccaro is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A in English. She a strong interest in journalism and hopes to pursue a career in the field.

All posts by Alexandra Zuccaro

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