How to remember names? | The Salvation Army

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How to remember names?

Remembering names takes practise. Here are some tips.
How can i remember names?
Posted March 12, 2012

A young man walked into a large city church for the fi rst time, and was surprised that the pastor noticed him and introduced himself. But he was even more surprised the next Sunday, when the pastor not only remembered his name, but picked up on their previous conversation.

It kept the young man coming back to church, and he later asked the pastor how he remembered him in the sea of faces. The pastor said he always wrote down the names of new people he met, and a few details of their conversation. Exercises like this may sound contrived, but it made the young man feel valued in his new community.

Just like playing the piano or taking up a sport, remembering names takes practise—until eventually we can make it look easy! Here are some practical exercises that really help:

Repetition: The simplest method is to repeat the person’s name over and over in your head, and use it a couple of times in conversation (without overdoing it). Name association: Associate their name with something you notice, or learn about them. ‘Katherine is from Christchurch’ works well. Be careful about ‘Katherine is cuddly’—you never know when your brain-to-mouth fi lter will fail you!

Word play: Rhyming and alliteration is fun—and works! So you could say to yourself, ‘Kate is great’ or ‘Radhini Houdini’.

Break it down: If it’s a name you’re not familiar with, it can be helpful to break it down into familiar sound bites. So when you meet Rapellele, think of ‘Repel-smellie’. It will help you trigger the correct pronunciation in your head—before speaking!

Picture it: It helps to associate a name with a visual image. So when you meet Gandalf (and I have!), imagine the character from Lord of the Rings. Or when you meet Tracey, think of him riding a tractor.

Choose a couple of these techniques that work for you, and practise. Rather than being contrived, it shows you care about people enough to make the effort, and is a simple way to make them feel valued.