“I’m terrible at remembering names.”

We hear that all the time. But we find that remembering names is a skill that anyone can learn if they simply make it a priority and use a few tricks.

Three step Name Recall Process

Anyone that is good at remembering names does three things:

  1. They listen to the name when they first hear it.
  2. They take special care to remember names in their “life communities.”
  3. They use one of several name recall systems

Be alert to the Name when you hear it

Any book that you read on remembering names will tell you the same thing about why most people are terrible at remembering names: They never listen to a person’s name in the first place.

One attorney that we know said that his ability to remember a person’s name increased dramatically simply by listening carefully and then repeating the name back. “Oh hi Sandra,” he’d say. “My name is Fred.”

If you don’t hear the name, simply ask the person to repeat it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t get your name. Could you repeat it?”

This simple trick will enable you to remember names in most situations.

Know the names in your “Life Communities”

Most people get into trouble when they forget names of people that they should know. For example, everyone should know the names of all their neighbors and their co-workers. And many of us have other life communities: church, Cub Scouts etc.

For these groups, take a half an hour and sit down with the directory and quiz yourself. One executive we know regularly takes out his office directory and looks at the photographs and quizzes himself on the names. That way, he is never embarrassed when one of his co-workers calls him by name and he can’t respond in kind.

Use a System for Remembering Lots of Names Quickly

For remembering large numbers of people’s name quickly, you will need a system.

Magician Harry Lorayne did a trick where he would greet everyone in a 400 seat auditorium once and then remember every single one of their names. In his book “The Memory Book” he explained his rather elaborate system of associating certain facial features with the person’s name. For example, if someone named “Jack” had huge ears, Lorayne would imagine car jacks where the man’s ears should be.

A less complicated system is simply to make a game of it and test yourself. It works like this. As you go to a party of strangers, work the room gradually, introducing yourself and learning the names of the people in one conversation cluster at a time.

In the first cluster, you meet Fred, Jane and Izzy. You make a point of really hearing their names and using them. Before you leave the cluster, quiz yourself. Go to another cluster and repeat. But before going to a third cluster, quiz yourself on all names.

With a little practice, you’ll be remembering names like a pro.

Joey Asher

Joey AsherJoey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”