Mind and Memory
Follow These Memory Tricks, and You’ll Never Forget Anyone’s Name Again
Recent studies shed light on why memory blips happen when you are trying to remember someone’s name, and what you can do to avoid them.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Whether you’re at a party with friends of friends of friends or testing out new ways to meet people on the dating field, you’ll need to memorize a few names—and fast. Right after you’re introduced to someone new, use that person’s name in your response: “Hi Nicole, it’s nice to meet you.” By actually saying the name out loud instead of smiling with a simple “Hi,” you’re more likely to concentrate on what you’re saying and keep that name at the front of your mind. Also try to incorporate that person’s name throughout the conversation—as long as you’re not being creepy about it—and when you say goodbye.
Focus on the eyes
It’s said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and that’s technically true. These are the surprising things your eyes reveal about your personality. But they can also help you recall that soul’s name. Apart from a few wrinkles around the edges, people’s eyes don’t change that much as they age. If years pass between meetings, you’ll be less thrown off by shifts in hair, clothing, body shape, and height if you check their eyes.
Invent strong—even oddball—connections between a person’s name and face. Think of what the name reminds you of (“Tina” might turn into “tea”), and (in your mind) attach that association to the person’s face. Again, as valiant as your memory efforts may be, you don’t want to creep anyone out.
People are better at remembering names when they see them written down in advance, one study found, and that’s just one of the ways handwriting can make you smarter. While this technique won’t help for unexpected encounters, it can be a good strategy for classes, interviews, and parties with a public invitation list.
Practice at home
Quizzing yourself on celebrity names is a low-risk way to enhance your face-memory skills. While watching movies or TV shows, work on forming name-and-face associations with people whose feelings you couldn’t possibly hurt. Steal these habits of people with impressive memory and you’ll be memorizing names in no time.
When you’re stressed, your body’s endocrine system releases cortisol, which can erase all sorts of memories—including (and perhaps especially) the type of memory involved in recalling names. If stress isn’t the issue, you may be experiencing one of these common reasons you’re suddenly forgetting everything. Once you target the cause of your forgetfulness, it will be easier to bring your memory back to normal.