Struggle to remember names? These clever techniques will help you recall them

Using people’s names is an extremely well-known management technique. Savvy CEOs know that one way to make employees feel valued is to master the art of listening to their names, and then using them in the ensuing conversations.

But remembering every name in a large meeting has an added power: It not only gives those whose names are remembered a little glow; it also makes the person remembering them impressive. Not only have they attended to the content of the meeting, but they’ve also managed to absorb individual information. Don’t think you could remember three names—let alone 30—after hearing them once? There are some simple ways to try.

The first way is to write all those names down. Create a little seating chart and note down the names with each seat. This way you gain most of the effect of intelligence without using all your powers of concentration on memory exercises.

The second way is to concentrate, concentrate, concentrate. Most of the difficulty we experience remembering is an attention problem, not a memory problem. If you can make sure to direct attention to names the first time you hear them, you have the advantage over most people in the room.

Another way is to make remember names a game. Actors play a voice and memory game that makes memorizing names surprisingly easy. Standing in a circle, the first actor introduces themselves: “I’m Sam.” The actor next to them introduces the first actor, then themselves. “This is Sam, and I’m Sadie.” The third does the same: “This is Sam, this is Sadie, and I’m Frank.” This technique allows the final person in the circle to repeat every name, with order and repetition reinforcing the list each time it’s spoken. In a meeting, a silent version of this is possible: saying the person’s name in one’s head when they make a point, and creating a litany of all the names when you look around the room.

Finally, the fourth way to remember names is to create an association between the name and a mental image you connect with that person. For instance, if you meet a man named Jim who looks very buff, you might connect his name with the image of a gym—trust us, you won’t forget his name after that.

This story was one of the best from 2019, and we are happy to include it in our “12 Days of Optimism” as we get ready to welcome 2020!

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