Tips on remembering names to help eliminate the 50 shades…of red!

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Have you ever been in a situation where you have forgotten someone’s name?

Isn’t it even worse, when they have obviously remembered your name and use it several times?

You are left scrambling in your memory banks, hoping that it will suddenly come to you!  Sometimes you might even go through every letter in the alphabet, in your head – hoping against hopes that it will jump into your mind.

It can be very embarrassing, you could even find yourself turning “50 shades of red”!

A few years ago  I was visiting Kilmuckridge in Co Wexford and I met a 3 year old whom I hadn’t met since the previous year.

I was really surprised (and flattered!) when she shouted over “Hi Barbara”.

I commented to her mother that she had a child who was gifted with a fantastic memory for names, either that or I had made an amazing impression on her the previous year! Her mother burst my bubble by replying “her playschool teacher’s name is Barbara”.  Therein, lies the first tip in remembering names – simply associate the person with someone whom you know well with the same name.

Below are 5 more tips to help remember names, followed by 5 tips on how you might dig yourself out of that hole when you have forgotten the name.

5 tips to help remember names

1. Listen … really listen!

I know, it’s pretty basic, but it works. Concentrate on listening to and remembering the name rather than on what you might say next.

2. Repeat out loud

As soon as you are introduced, repeat the name immediately – “nice to meet you Jimmy”, this helps to commit it to memory. If there is someone else in the group, introducing Jimmy to them gives you a 2nd opportunity to repeat the name. Then, try and surreptitiously repeat it another time – “long time since I met someone called Jimmy” or “my brother is called Jimmy” etc. At all costs avoid over-repeating it throughout the conversation, or is it only me that finds that quite annoying?

3. Silent repetition

Repeat the name a few more times in your head.

4. Invoke a discussion

If appropriate, ask how they spell it, e.g. “is that Ann with an e or without”? This sometimes works well with foreign names, if you don’t know how to pronounce the name, stick with it and really make an effort. Try breaking it into syllables to make it easier to pronounce and remember.

5. Mind picture

This was a tip I picked up as a Dale Carnegie Trainer.  Look at them and try to come up with a way to help you remember their name by creating a mind-picture. For example, I met a guy recently called Niall. I created an image of his head bursting through the iris of an eye – the more ridiculous the better and adding action really helps it stick.


5 tips for when you have forgotten a name

1. Goldfish confession

If you have just met them – admit that you have the memory of a goldfish and ask if they could they tell you again. Do not be too surprised if they admit that they too have forgotten your name!

2. Senior moment

Even if it is a while since you met – again, admit it and ask them to refresh your memory. If you are the wrong side of a particular decade, you might make a joke of it by saying you were having a “senior moment”.

3. Involve a 3rd party

If you really feel you cannot ask them their name, try introducing them to somebody else. You say to the person whose name you have forgotten “have you met John”? You then look at John and hope and pray that he will ask them their name, you listen intently when you hear it. Follow this with effusive use of their name for the rest of the conversation so they are in no doubt that you did actually know it all along!

4. Ask a friend

Discretely ask someone else what the person’s name is.

5. The slightly underhand approach

Final tip, doesn’t always work, but when it does it is sweet. You simply say “sorry I have forgotten your first name” – implying that you did at least remember the surname. Use with caution, I have got caught out when asked “so what is my surname then” – ouch!