How can you avoid the panic that can come from forgetting someone’s name almost as soon as you’re introduced? The fact is, names just aren’t a priority for our brains, which evolved to remember critical details that affect survival, like the face of an enemy or the location of nutritious food.
1) Don’t psych yourself out.
Most people tend to believe that they have a bad memory for names. If you walk into a new situation convinced that you won’t remember names, the extra stress will ensure that you probably won’t. Instead, go in believing that the room contains at least a couple of people whose names you can and will remember.
2) Slow down and take it easy.
Part of the reason names escape us is because there’s usually a lot of activity going on around us while we’re meeting new people. Loud parties, conferences and restaurants don’t make it easier to remember a blur of names during introductions. Take a moment during introductions to make sure you get a person’s name right. Repeat the names while making eye contact with each person.
3) Ask questions.
Ask a question about the person’s first or last name. Where are they from? Is there a story behind their name? If the name is difficult to pronounce, repeat it slowly and let the person correct you until you get it right. This will help you remember it, but it also serves the purpose of ensuring that someone knows you care enough to get it right. As business becomes more global, this is critically important.
4) Use a person’s name.
During conversation, use the person’s name as often as is comfortable. They will appreciate the attention and saying it out loud will help to solidify the name in your mind, which will make it easier to put a name with a face later.
5) Create an image.
Try to create an image associated with a person’s name. Sometimes it’s simple, like when you meet a Bill Baker and you imagine him in a chef hat holding a tray of chocolate cupcakes with dollar bills folded into the icing. Other times, you need to be creative to find a way to associate an image with a name. No matter how challenging a name may seem, you can break it down into phonetic syllables and create images that get close enough for your brain to remember the association.
For example, say you meet a Rahul Banerjee at a conference. The name Rahul can be translated to the image of “raw wool” freshly sheared from a sheep in your memory. Banerjee can be pictured as a banner with a picture of a “G” or a jeep on it. These images seem weird–but the stranger they are the more your brain will remember them due to the novelty. Remember, these images exist in your mind only and don’t need to be revealed to anyone. They are there only for your benefit.
Note: Chris and James put their memory skills to work to create Memory Layer, which just released a white paper (click here to request a free copy), “Memory and Advertising: Message Clarity, Principles and Tactics to Hack the Hippocampus” for ad agencies and brands. For more memory tips and information, follow @MemoryLayer on Twitter.