How to Actually Remember People's Names

My husband and I moved to a new area almost three years ago. Six doors down, we first met a teacher. She walks her dogs every day and I wave to her.
I doubt that I will ever be able to recognize faces with super-recognition. I was determined to improve my name recall and sought out the assistance of two experts: A neurosurgeon, and a world-record holder in memory.

You know the Face. Why not the Name?

These studies, which were taken from the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology suggest that we are better at remembering faces than names. My case is the opposite. Although I can recognize faces, their names are not. My brain is not processing the information properly, which turns out to be one of the reasons.

Bradley Lega, an associate professor of neurological surgery at UT Southwestern/Texas Health Resources, Dallas, says that the hippocampus is crucial to our ability to connect two things that aren't connected in our minds. Your hippocampus is crucial in helping you to associate names and faces with people. This allows you to identify the person and how to address them. Good news! Familiar names don't depend on your hippocampus.

Find out Why it is so difficult to retrieve names

You may focus on impressing someone by your skills and expertise, rather than learning about them. The first thing you do is introduce yourself and then shake hands. You introduce yourself and shake hands.

Kevin Horsley, a great master of memory and author Unlimited Memory, says that one of the greatest problems with this is that people don't actually hear the name. They aren't really concentrating because it is not their intention to be interesting, but rather to make a name.

Learn from listening to learning

It takes time to master a subject when you are learning it in school. It is unreasonable to think you can memorize the information in a matter of minutes and then forget it. Instead, you review and study the subject matter before you take a test or meet with a client. It is the same as meeting someone for the first time and expecting their name flash into your mind. Lega calls this the tip-of the-tongue phenomenon. This is when you can't recall the name because it wasn't properly learned. There are several ways to increase your recall.

Retrieval is the key focus

It is easier to find something you have forgotten to bring back if you remember it well. Lega suggests that you return to someone as soon as possible after your first encounter. You could say hello to Jill at a party and then say sorry Jill two minutes later. This is a good indicator of how likely you will be to remember the name again. Even if you only remember the name once, it will help you to retain it in your head.

Find Something Different

Imagine that you meet a colleague with a common name you are certain you wont forget. You forget what the other person said when you walk by them in the hallway a few hours later. Horsley says that you haven't made any cognitive effort and the name you forget is going to be the one that you remember.

Repeat the name of someone you have just heard. It could be, "Nice to meet you Bill", and then give your name meaning. Horsley's case was a perfect example. I could see a horse and hear it neighing. He suggests that you find meaning in someone's name within 20 seconds of hearing it.

Concentrate on facial features

Find a unique feature in someone's face. Horsley uses his nose as an example. He says that Kevinlike his nose is being caved-in. It can be a great way to remind yourself of the next time you meet up, by doing something different and linking that image to your face.

An old time ago, I was a guest on local talk shows. The host mentioned my memory skills. She said, "I heard Kanarek," so I imagined a can around my neck. I was able to understand the kind of connection she was making."

All Files and Notes in One Place

My brain is the Apple Notes app that I have on my iPhone. There is only one place I can go when I need to find an idea for an article, or to add something to my Costco shopping list. Horsley provided another reason to use the app. Once you have met someone, you can enter their name and a few details about them (their profession, number or children) as well as where they met. He also recommended Evernote, Google Keep and Trello. You're more likely to remember the reminder and review it.

Take a look at the Lists Often

As a professional organizer, I advised clients to create to-do lists. This was for some a way of staying on track. Some claimed that the lists weren't useful, but later admitted that they were not used. It is worth taking the time to review the list before you make any effort to get someone's information. Horsley uses Apple Notes to remind him each Monday to go through the folders he's made. Two weeks later, he sets another reminder and continues to push the deadline until he commits the list to his memory.

You can also use Google Docs or a Word document. Horsley says that you are re-meeting people and recreating the meeting experience.

Social Media can be used as a reminder

After you have met someone, ask them to join your social media network. LinkedIn is great for business contacts. Instagram and Facebook can offer more personal information. You can make Twitter Lists that include other accounts and organize them by topic, profession or interest to prioritize tweets. You can view a profile photo of a person to remind you if they haven't accepted your request.

A few years ago, I joined the Facebook group for conference attendees. I replied to a woman asking if anyone was connected through their city. We agreed to meet at the airport. Before I got to the gate, I clicked on her message. I recognised her instantly, even though she had added a cartoon mustache as her profile picture.

Change the way you think

Many conferences and business meetings are conducted online. Take the time to improve your memory. It's easy to connect to someone online by simply looking at their profile names.

You should also consider changing your outlook. You may be unable to master a skill if you don't believe you can. Horsley says that there is no good or bad memory for names. Only one memory strategy is good or bad.

Both experts inspired me to tell the truth next time I see my neighbor. Instead of making comments about the weather, I'm asking her for her name. This time, I'll listen.

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