Do you have trouble remembering names of new people you meet? Have you ever uttered the words I'm good with faces but terrible with names...?
That's because your brain is primed to remember visual images far better than it is to remember words. So you're not alone - and eventually everyone has to make a conscious effort to remember new names!
Here's how to remember names of new people (and stop you feeling embarrassed or fumbling around for names the next time you meet!) It's often called The Name Game or sometimes The Face-Name Method.
1. Pay Attention to The Name
When you start suffering from aging memory loss or just a poor memory in general, it's all too easy to just not bother to learn a new name, since you figure you're going to forget it anyway. Well, that's not even trying!
To remember names, you have to pay attention to them in the first place, and make sure you heard them correctly. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by the handshake or what to say next. Just pay attention to their name!
It is absolutely fine (in fact, I recommend it) to repeat the person's name back to them, just to ensure you heard it correctly. Getting your tongue around their name, no matter how common or uncommon it is, will also help familiarize you with it.
2. Form a Name Association
As soon as you say the name back, form a quick association with an image. For instance, let's say a man introduces himself to you as Bob Brown. If you have a friend or relative called Bob, then you can instantly picture them wearing a brown suit. The next time you see this man you'll automatically recall an image of Uncle Bob wearing brown.
What about harder names that seem to have no visual association? Try for example, Becky Turner, and let's say you don't know anyone else called Becky. One way to remember my name would be to imagine a bear holding a large key and turning it. Use whatever image fits best for you. It doesn't have to be an exact phonetic match - the general association is all you need to kick you off in the right direction and you will automatically recall the rest.
Another example: Ingrid Ballantine. I just made that name up without thinking of any associations first. So how do you quickly form an association for it? In my mind, I imagine this woman stuck in a 3D grid with a ballerina dancing around her and a giant old-fashioned pocket watch (time) floating in the air. It sounds quite abstract now, but those key visuals give me all the info I need to remember the name Ingrid Ballantine.
Try it yourself with the following names and come up with your own loose visual associations:
Ron White, the two-time USA memory champion, who has trained himself how to have
a great memory...no...an absolutely amazing memory. Ron is able to remember the
name of everyone he met at the conference then he tells you how you can do it
too. The video is a little on the long side but if you have the time, it
is worth it...he is quite funny.
3. Form a Face Association
Now let's cement the name to the face. Pick a prominent facial feature of the new person who's name you want to remember. Let's say Ingrid Ballantine has really long blond hair - all you have to do is integrate that into your visual image. So now poor old Ingrid is trapped in a 3D grid with her hair defying gravity, scattered all over the place, with a ballerina dancing manically around her and the giant clock face in the background. The fact that it's a pretty weird image will make it all the more memorable later.
What if Bob Brown has massive fuzzy gray eyebrows? You can simply put those eyebrows on the face of a Bob you already know. Be sure to oversize them, as if you are making a caricature image of the person in question.
How about Laura Evans with her massive blue eyes? Imagine a lawyer (in a judge's wig, if you want to cement the court concept) floating up to heaven, looking terribly worried with big blue eyes, wondering why she's suddenly 30,000 feet in the air.
Mary Baker and her funny nostrils? Just imagine the Virgin Mary, wearing a really tall baker's hat only now she has oversized Skeletor nostrils. It may not be flattering and you will never want to tell your victim subject about your visual associations, but hey - it works!
4. Recall The Image Later
So far, you've paid attention to the name, formed some solid visual associations, and stored the name in your working memory. However, short term memory is exactly that: short term. And so in order to remember the names when you really need them - days, weeks or even months later - you need to recall the images and the names several times. This imprints them in your long term memory.
How often should you recall the newly remembered names? Memory research suggests you recall the vivid images and corresponding names at these intervals:
After 1 minute
After 10 minutes
After 1 day
After 1 week
After 1 month
Each time you remember the names you'll etch them deeper into your long term memory.
Extra Tips on How to Remember Names
Finally, it will help if you use the new names in conversation, especially early on. ("Thanks, Bob" or "It was nice to meet you Bob" or "Yes but Bob what do you think about...") Of course, make it seem natural or your new friend will not want to know you for very long :)
The Name Game is used by all kinds of memory performers as it's a very simple but effective mnemonic for remembering lots of new names at once. But even in everyday life I'm sure you can find good use for the Name Game - and I hope it helps you see that remembering names is easy... when you know how!