Tag Archives: Memory Tricks

How To Remember Names Easily And Automatically

Mrs. Big Hair

Once I was at this party, and I was with a friend of mine, actually a date. I saw some guy that I’d met before; at least I think I’d met him before. We did that bit of recognition when you make eye contact with somebody that you know. An almost instantaneous acknowledgment of who they are. As soon as we did that, he came over. Then, to my horror, I realized that I not only didn’t remember where I knew this guy from, but that I also couldn’t recall his name. Not even a first letter.

For a few seconds, I hoped he was the kind of guy that just walks up and introduces himself, regardless of the situation, like some politician running for office, or the host of the party, or something. No dice. He walked, greeted me, (using my name of course) and then stood there waiting for me to introduce him to my date. Of course, my date, not knowing anyone at the party, was patiently waiting for me to introduce her to him.

One of the most common complaints that people have about their memories is an inability to remember names. The trick (that I didn’t learn until after that embarrassing moment at party) is two fold. One is an understanding of how memory works, and the other is a simple trick that you easily learn and put into place so you’ll never have trouble remembering names again.

The way memory works is that it’s not passive, unless it is for life or death information. Let’s say you’re walking through the jungle (back during our evolutionary past), and happen to look up at a banana tree. All of a sudden a group of ferocious monkeys swing down, beat you up, and chase you away. You’ll likely have no trouble remembering that spot, aided by the presence of the banana tree, as a no no in the future. You wouldn’t have to go back to your cave, and review you notes of the day and drill yourself so you’d remember where the safe places were, and where the dangerous place were. It would be automatic.

Likewise, if you were huffing it across the desert, and saw strange looking tree, and upon arrival at the tree found a source of an underground stream, you wouldn’t have any problems remembering where the stream was. Remembering where a hidden source of water in the desert is much easier than remembering where you parked at the airport.

So our memory is only passive when it comes to life and death. We somehow know that when we take classes in school. We listen attentively to the boring lecture, and know we have to study and drill the information into our brain before a test. We can’t just sit there passively listening to the lecture and soak it all up without a problem (at least most of us can’t). So why do we think we can remember names without putting in any effort? Who knows. The key is to realize that we need to remember names just like we’d study and remember information for a test. We have to consciously input the information into our brains in a specific way so it will make it easier to find them later.

When we listen to a lecture, we usually take notes, and then study for our notes later. You’d look kind of silly at a party walking around with a pencil and a small notebook writing down everything people said to you. They would think you were some kind of reporter or something. Since writing the information down is out, we need a better trick to remember names.

The trick is to apply a mnemonic device, like “all good boys eat cows”, or however it goes for remembering the musical scales. That reason I can’t really remember that is because it’s lacking an emotional component. Remember the deadly banana tree and the hidden water source? Both those came pre filled with a strong emotional component. We need to use those when creating our mnemonic devices. Here’s how you construct an emotionally laden mnemonic for remembering names:

A visualization of the person + a visualization of their name + a funny picture connecting them together = remembered name.

When you first meet somebody, you need to think of one visual thing about them that stands out. This is only private, so it can be as goofy or as derogatory as you can imagine. You won’t be sharing this with anybody, and it’s only to help you remember their name, so whatever you come up with is OK. Let’s say you meet somebody, and the first thing you notice about them is that they have big hair. So before you hear their name, you can think of them as Mr. Or Ms big hair. Now when you hear their name, simply think of a picture to associate with their name. Let’s say their name is Lynne. So you run “Lynne” through your mind until you can think of an easily to visualize item that will help you recall “Lynne.”

Lets’ see… Lynne… Lynne… Lint! Lint from the dryer, all over your clothes. Now you simply attach “lint” and “big hair,” and what do you have? Some poor woman whose hair is filled with lint. So now every time you see this woman, you’ll immediately think of “big hair,” and “lint,” and you’ll have her name in a heartbeat. The funny thing about this is that you only have to go through this process of remembering all the pictures (which really only takes a couple seconds) once or twice. After that, their names will be automatic.

The best time to do this is within a few moments after you meet them, whenever you get a second. Picture associated with the person, picture associated with their name, and hook them together somehow. The crazier, the funnier, the more derogatory, and more sexual you can make either picture, will make it much more easy to remember. If you make your pictures boring, like “all cows eat grass,” it won’t be so easy to remember.

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Oh, and at the party, I suddenly remembered where I knew the guy from. His name was Mike, and I’d met him a couple weeks earlier at a toastmasters meeting.