I'm bad with faces, and worse with names and need a fix.
August 10, 2017 9:49 AM   Subscribe

I am awful at networking and I need to get better. The biggest hurdle here is that I am really bad with names, and sort-of-okay with faces, but am really bad at recalling that information later.

My most recent job is putting me in contact with an inordinate amount of people in my industry on a nearly daily basis. This is a scale that I'm not used to. I would really like to get better at remembering these folks, but I'm having a hard time. When I run into people later on, I'm usually able to dredge up basic recognition of "I HAVE MET THIS HOOMAN BEFORE" and that's about it. It sucks, and I need to get better. My progress in my career kind of depends on it. I feel like the dude from Memento half the time. I am afraid I'm coming off a bit like an asshole.

My current "system" is a hot mess of post-its, a small notebook, and various other scraps of paper scrawled on immediately after meeting someone, and shoving them into my backpack to just eventually be swiftly recycled when things go sideways in there. This is clearly suboptimal. I need a better way to track this, and hopefully cement this information in my brain better. Even if i'm not able to recall someone's name, I need to be able to reference where they worked or some other detail. Just writing it on a scrap of paper isn't really helping.

I really need some bare bones workflow instruction on the best way to keep track of people and interactions I've had with them. I've seen some other ask's about this, but they're more 'what product do I use to do x' and I'm going to need a bit more coaching here. Simply going "use evernote" isn't going to work for me; I kind of need the workflow explained in tandem with what software to use (if need be, paper-only solutions are fine too).

At bare minimum, I need to be able to remember their name. It has to be cemented in my head somehow. I don't know how common this is, but in my industry it's really normal to give people like a quick rundown of their resume when you first meet them. Usually it goes "I work over at (current_Place), I worked for (most_prestigious_place) and got my start at (wherever_place). Knowing what project I was working on, or they were working on when I met them is kind of important too. It's also really common for folks to trade instagram usernames, which I find odd, but I must roll with. Attaching more information as I go helps.
posted by furnace.heart to Human Relations (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
For example.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:55 AM on August 10, 2017

The visualisation tip in that article works really well for me. If I meet a new person called Philip, I picture him in my mind stood next to someone I used to work with called Philip. The visual memory is a powerful thing.

The main problem is "I don't know anyone called Philip" in which case you picture your dude holding a philips screwdriver. You picture Nicky singing "Darling Nicki" by Prince. Visualise Cole holding a lump of coal and looking confused.

I think I read that in a Derren Brown book sometime ago, it's a great technique.
posted by greenish at 10:05 AM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tips linked above are good, one not mentioned there that helps me: say their name back to them while making strong eye contact during the first conversation, firmly and clearly. Also repeat their name to yourself mentally right as you walk away from your encounter, while thinking of their eyes. I often fail to do this regimen, but if I do it, it works well for me.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:07 AM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a terrible time with names and use the technique greenish suggests above.

To this day, I think of my friend Jason wearing a toga (Jason & the Argonauts), Richard wearing a crown (King Richard), Francis with a shaved patch on his head and wearing a monk's robe (Franciscan monks), and Sam wearing a cowboy hat (Yosemite Sam). Sometimes it's simpler, like Bob bobbing for apples, Sally sallying forth, Mary with a lamb, Jack standing next to a Jill in matching clothing (or vice versa) carrying a bucket between them. Sometimes I'll get muddled (I'll match them in my head with someone I know well, but then can't remember was it my brother's name or my father's name that they have, for example), so I try to make it a little funny and picture them in the costume/situation whenever I see them or their name. When I get an email from Richard, I picture him wearing a crown and ermine-trimmed cloak, using his scepter to hit "send".

I personally think name is the most important thing to remember and the other context comes back as you familiarize yourself with them. Connecting on LinkedIn has helped me a lot with this in a work setting ("Oh right, Gary - singing Gary, Indiana from the Music Man musical - got his start at Place I'd Like To Connect With").
posted by pammeke at 10:29 AM on August 10, 2017

This post describes a system that sounds very much like what you're doing but advocates a paid service to keep all of the information together.

This page describes a similar system using Evernote. Hopefully it's step-by-step enough to meet your needs.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:58 AM on August 10, 2017

Finding out I have a fairly high degree of face blindness helped me feel less stupid and thus less mentally blocked about it. For important people (like at a new job), I use Tiny Cards on my phone to study faces (I'll often just grab a picture from the web somewhere), names, and job titles. It's a bit limiting to how much info you can add (you may find a better online flashcard system), but being able to do quick quizzes of a few people at a time has been a huge help to me. It's also very helpful to me not too meet too many people at once whenever possible — I can only remember one or two people at a time, more than that and it becomes a muddle. So I do my best to control that when I can, ie try to meet up with a couple of people ahead of time, or look a couple of people up online before a group event.
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 11:39 AM on August 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

Can you get pictures of these people? I ended up finding pictures of the people and put them in an Anki deck for spaced repetition practice. If you can manage to keep their info around for a day or two and hunt down some picture of them and add it to your deck and then spend a few minutes a day... it might work for you.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:02 PM on August 10, 2017

This hack is a little lighter weight than you may need but I find it very helpful to re-ask someone's name at the end of a conversation. At the beginning I don't have anything to hold on to -- at the end I'm flush with details about our interaction, and I think this helps the old memory banks.

I find that people respond really well to it, also. It's clear I want to remember their name and that's flattering.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:05 PM on August 10, 2017

Are you a visual thinker? I love business cards, collect them from everyone, and strongly correllate each card with the face of the person who gave it to me.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:30 PM on August 11, 2017

I've started telling people when I meet them that I'm bad with names and faces, and might need to get their name again the next time we meet. Not infrequently people seem relieved and confide they might not recall mine either.

I'm fairly good at remembering other details about what people are working on or other details though, which helps. Maybe you'd be able to remember these other things better if you didn't put as much pressure on yourself to remember names and faces? Asking how Thing X is going, or saying congratulations on Y, really does a lot for people feeling you remember them... maybe even more than remembering their name and nothing else.

For me, I find these visualization tips are a bad, bad idea which leads to confusing someone's name in a possibly insulting manner at worst, and at best I'm simply unable to form a mental picture of the face.

There is a thing called contact management software which people use to keep track of these details. I would guess the companies that make it have workflows and tutorials for their software. Maybe there's something that would work for you.
posted by yohko at 7:41 PM on August 11, 2017

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