How do I learn lots of people's names quickly?
June 25, 2005 8:16 PM   Subscribe

How do I learn lots of names of people quickly? I'm beginning a summer at the Middlebury language schools and I need to get to know as many people as possible *quick*. Unfortunately, I suck at remembering names. Even for like 3 seconds. I try to write them down as fast as possible, and most of the time I lose it before I get to my handy pocket notebook. Tips?
posted by sdis to Society & Culture (16 answers total)
my trick is to be sure to say their name at least three times in conversation in as short a time as possible. Also, link them to someone you know, something you have an interest in. Also mnemonics may help you.
posted by horseblind at 8:30 PM on June 25, 2005

I'm a good forgetter, but it helps me if I make physical contact -- shake hands, rub noses, whatever. And like horseblind, repeat and rerepeat. If there's time I get name, talk, then get name again while shaking hands and telling them how I'm making sure to remember their name.
posted by anadem at 8:59 PM on June 25, 2005

Another trick is to link the name to a trait that you immediately notice. Big Nose Bob, Loud Mary, Gracious Lisa, just pick something you notice and attach it to the name.
posted by forforf at 9:37 PM on June 25, 2005

This is a semi-related question.
posted by peacay at 9:58 PM on June 25, 2005

right away say their name right back to them while looking right at them. You then associate their name with their face.

Guy: "Sdis, this is mary"
You: "Mary, hi, nice to meet you."

I have the same problem and this really works for me
posted by menace303 at 10:41 PM on June 25, 2005

What forforf said, especially if you can think of something alliterative.
posted by sellout at 10:47 PM on June 25, 2005

I have a *severe* problem remembering people's names. What I've found to work better is to write down their names everytime I see them, then keep an eye out for their written names. I make efforts (including asking people to spell their names so I can write it down) to ... put people's names into writing.

If I can write down someon's name, and see their name associated with something, and if I can go "hey, you're _____, right? (while writing it down); then I'm pretty good on remembering... otherwise; not so much.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:32 PM on June 25, 2005

Also, if you have a lot of names to remember, people will often be understanding if you just own up and say, "Hey, I'm sorry, but I'm still trying to get everyone's name down, and I'm unfortunately blanking on yours." I moved recently to a firm that has a few hundred people in it, and I've said that more than a few times.
posted by WCityMike at 11:44 PM on June 25, 2005

Stop saying "I suck at remembering names."

Instead, tell people "I'm really good at remembering names." You have to tell it to yourself, too. You don't have to believe it, but make sure you say it - mentally or out loud, about 10 times a day.

Using this one trick, and no other intervention, I boosted my name recall rate from about 10% to 90%. Even though I'd read about it somewhere, I hardly believed that it could work so well.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:28 AM on June 26, 2005

For me, part of the problem was learning to care. It's one thing to know you're not good at remembering names, it's another thing entirely to actually listen when someone tells you their name. It's easy to think you're listening when you're not, and sometimes a really conscious effort to not think of anything other than listening to this person is what's required.
posted by benzo8 at 3:46 AM on June 26, 2005

I have worked hard on this skill. Here's my trick. The problem with remembering a lot of names you learn at once is that your attention focus shifts as each new name is added to the list in quick succession. Slow the process. Take a couple of extra seconds after you learn someone's name to internalize it (saying "Nice to meet you, Mary . . " etc. is a good start). As you add each new name, go back over the whole list in your head or, if appropriate, just say repeat the list out loud, making a visible effort to memorize the names ("OK, so Ted, Mary, Jacob, Liz . . . and you are?"). For the next few minutes (assuming this is a group setting) address people by name. It's not unexpected that you will forget, so go back over the names before the group disbands and correct or fill in any remaining gaps.

In my early years of teaching I often had classes of almost 200 students. By mid semester, I usually had the names and faces matched for almost all of them. Of course, I reinforced by doing a roll call at the beginning of every class for a couple of weeks. It impressed the students in those large classes immensely. Over time, it's gotten easy for me to remember 6 or 7 names from one group setting round of introductions. No one is "good at remembering names" unless they develop a system and make an effort for a while. It's psychological human nature. Alliterations and mental associations are often just distracting. Repetition is the key.
posted by realcountrymusic at 4:44 AM on June 26, 2005

I find I have better success at remembering names if I instead focus on remembering their face, and assume that the name will follow. I think of their name while I look at their face and try to etch it into my mind. I try to remember the name/face combo just long enough so that a few minutes later, I can look across the room and quiz myself- I look at the faces and try to put the names with them. Do that enough times over, and you should be pretty solid on everyone's name.

I once had to meet two classes of about 30 5th graders in a week. I actually managed to get most of their names down by lunchtime on the first day this way. It freaked them out when I remembered their names, so *they* started quizzing me, too.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 8:42 AM on June 26, 2005

When I was an RA in college, with some 40 residents to learn, the technique I used was to think of someone else I already knew who had the same name, then mentally link their face with the new face. Thinking visually was easier for me and effectively removed the need to memorize the names. Over a few weeks, I was able to gradually remove that middle step, and connect the new face with the name on my own.
posted by Jeff Howard at 9:18 AM on June 26, 2005

Also remember that most people won't be offended if you politely say "I'm so embarassed, I forgot your name. What was it again?"

That probably works once per person. heh
posted by menace303 at 9:20 AM on June 26, 2005

I was really good at names in college. My trick: Get their first name AND their last name. You'd think that having twice as many names to remember would be twice as hard. In reality, though, getting both names gave me twice as many memory hooks, and if I could remember one of the two names, I'd often remember the other by association. Plus, it looks really impressive if you remember BOTH of someone's names.
posted by Alt F4 at 10:33 AM on June 26, 2005

These are good suggestions, and I will use them in my real life.

But you won't need them at Middlebury. You have to wear ID badges at all times.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:11 PM on June 26, 2005

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