If someone came up to you and said, “If you remember my name a week from now, I’ll give you a million dollars,” would you remember that name?
You probably would, right? I know that I would.
Many people believe that it’s difficult to remember names and faces. It’s a limiting belief that prevents many of us from trying to do it. But all you need is a good strategy and the confidence to work on it.
The Baker-baker Paradox
If someone introduced to you a man named Mr. Baker one day, you would likely soon forget that name unless you used a memory technique. However, if someone introduced to you someone whose job is a baker, you would probably remember that more easily. We can associate images with a baker: a baker’s clothing, the smell of dough being cooked, and so on. These same connections don’t exist for Mr. Baker; the name is disconnected from real-world things.
If we are trying to remember names, our job is to turn Bakers into bakers.
First, it’s essential to be interested and pay attention. Many people have difficulty learning names because they don’t pay close attention while others are introduced.
Second, this requires practice. Most of us aren’t constantly introduced to new people, so you will have to take a little time to keep the skill fresh. It doesn’t require much work, but it will take a little.
This method is the same one that memory champions use to remember and recall over a hundred names and faces in half an hour. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to do the same thing.
When you meet someone with the same name as you, you’re automatically interested in it. It has some value to you. If you strive to find the same level of interest in every name you encounter, you’ll find that it is much easier to remember.
It’s essential to take some control of the introduction when possible. You want to slow down the intro and make it important to you. Start by repeating the name of the person back to them. This will ensure that you have the name right and give you the first opportunity to review it.
If you didn’t hear the name, ask them to repeat it. If it’s a tricky or unfamiliar name, ask them to spell it. Listen carefully and become interested in what the other person has to say.
We’ve all experienced a time when we can remember the face but not the name. Rarely, if ever, is it the other way around. It’s easier for us to recall images. We typically rely on the voice in our head to tell us a person’s name, but it’s not a reliable system.
To make the name stickier, we want to devise a visual cue to go with the name. As soon as we meet someone new, we need to create a visual association within about twenty seconds. That will give us our best shot at remembering the name; otherwise, it will quickly fade away.
Some last names will be easy to picture. Baker, Cruise, Gardner – these names have a mental picture built in. Others will take more creativity, but with some work, any name can be turned into a mental picture.
Connect the face with the mental image you created in the previous section. When you see the face, it has to trigger the name. Here are a few ways to do it:
Comparison connection: Connect the name to another person you already know and compare the two. For example, if you meet someone named Brad, compare them to another Brad. It could be someone that you personally know or even a famous person like Brad Pitt. In what ways is the new Brad like the other Brad? Pick one or two features to compare. You’ve already spent closer attention to detail than you usually would.
Face connection: Link the name and a prominent feature on the person’s face. Every face is unique, and we want to exploit that uniqueness. For example, if you meet someone with a big nose named Dylan, you could imagine dill coming out of the person’s big nose in tufts. Maybe it comes spraying out in an imagined sneeze.
Meeting Location Connection: We can also use the meeting location as a peg because we tend to remember places. For example, if we met a person named Jack in the library, we could think about a car jack lifting one of the shelves. It’s a straightforward method for remembering names.
Practicing this skill is essential. It is also important to review the names of new people periodically so that it continues to stick in long-term memory, especially if it’s someone you rarely see. If you are building a mental bank of people always to remember, then you will have to practice recalling names with their associated mental images.
Although explaining (and learning) takes a while, the process is fast and easy. It won’t take long to master, and you can use Facebook for an endless list of names and faces for practice. Now, get busy and start remembering those names!