Trouble Remembering Names?

I have a secret – I am terrible with names!  I can remember Earned Value formulas, map directions, and complicated architecture structures – just don’t ask me to remember names.  Do you have that problem?  I thought I was the only one with that issue, but as I talked to some peers I found that lots of people have the same problem.  So, as a manager or a PM it is really embarrassing and degrading to people if you can’t remember their names.  What can you do?

I have tried many techniques to overcome my fear of forgetting someone’s name but I thought this would be a good time to share a few of the experts’ opinions on the subject.

I read a really good post by Rita J. King on LinkedIn entitled “Five Tricks for Remembering Names.”  Her tips were well thought out:

  1. Don’t psych yourself out.  (This is my primary issue and I have to not  stress out)
  2. Slow down, take a breath and concentrate on the person.  (Especially at functions like parties, conferences, large meetings – don’t let all the activity going on distract you from concentrating on the person and their name)
  3. Ask questions.  (Ask something about their name – is it hard to pronounce? Is it passed on from their family? Anything that will be memory jogger)
  4. Use the person’s name.  (I have a rule that I try to say the person’s name 2 or 3 times as I talk to them)
  5. Create an image or some mental picture associated with the person’s name.  (OK- I have tried this one and it does not work for me – but some people find this a good technique)

I also found a few other techniques that can help.  Another good tool is to create a “face association” with their name, like Jim is thin, or Suzy looks like some famous actress.  And speaking of face, Benjamin Levy, author of Remember Every Name Every Time, advocates the FACE method: “focus, ask, comment and employ.”

If you are managing people or responsible for interacting (Like a PM) with lots of people, then it is extremely important that you use people’s names and that you REMEMBER them!

My favorite technique was discovered in Harvey Mackay’s book, “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive”.  In Chapter 5 Harvey tells us that there is no such thing as a bad memory if we will just capture the information we get when we talk to people.  With the age of iPhone and Android Phones there is no excuse for not jotting down a few notes and name after meeting someone for the first time.

Now, I would love to hear if you have the same problem or any other techniques for remembering people’s names.


5 Responses to “Trouble Remembering Names?”

  1. Rob Hooft Says:

    I can add a trivial technique here: if you happen to forget someone’s name, ask them to tell you again. This is much less embarrassing than trying to work around your memory gap…

  2. alda combong Says:

    how about using name tags instead? lols.

  3. Neil A Walker (@PPMpractitioner) Says:

    Superb article. Thanks for sharing.

    I too have trouble remembering names. However I’ve adopted similar methods as “face association” with something akin to “focus, ask, comment and employ.”. This has enabled me to recall peoples names several years later. The odd person escapes me, it tends to be those that I have not connected a memorable association at the time.

  4. Dave Wedge Says:

    Sadly it seems to get harder as you get older, the information may be in your brain but accedssing it is an entirely different matter. The technique that works best for me is writing names down, and some kind of association link can work really well. I find if i link the person to a word, I can generally remember the word and can get to the name from there.

  5. Hardin Says:

    I had that problem too, but I know its reducing, for me, I used 2 techniques, I acknowledged it was a very embarrassing issue, secondly I found out i never used to look at a persons face when talking to them, probably because i was taller and didn’t want them feeling intimidated, I now stare at you and concentrate on doing that. Now i have a 85% success rate.

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