One of the hardest things to do is remember names. Names can often be so random and abstract, and that can make them extremely difficult to learn and/or remember. Unfortunately, name memorization skills are some of the most important and necessary skills to have in everyday life. Remembering someone's name can make the difference between closing a deal or not, impressing a friend or even a potential love interest….you know the deal! People love to hear their name. Try it out on a waiter, for example. If you memorize their name and keep using their name throughout the meal, I guarantee you the service will be better. It's a plain fact that people like to hear their own name. That's why when someone you haven't seen in a while or have only met once, remembers your name, you feel really impressed, as if the person has some interest in you. It's a great feeling, and can often lead to other positive things. Applying techniques for memorizing names is not easy at first, but it's the easiest to practice. Everyday you meet new people. Some you will never see again, some you might, and other's you will for sure. In any case, you lose nothing by trying to memorize the name of everyone you meet. Some of you may think that that's impossible, but I disagree. Names can be easy and fun to memorize.
I like to think (as do many other renowned memory experts) that there are 5 or so steps to memorizing someone's name. This method isn't instantly easy, but it's easy to get good at quickly with some practice!
1. FOCUS - The first step is being focused. It sounds obvious, but surprisingly most people aren't focused when hearing a person's name for the first time. Think about it, how many times have you shaken hands with someone as they told you their name while you were off in neverneverland thinking about something else? You need to focus. That is honestly half the battle. Tell yourself mentally, before you meet a person, "what is this person's name?" or "I WANT to know this person's name"; it makes a world of a difference.
2. PREPARE - Once you are in the right mindset to learn a person's name, you need to analyze them. Pick out the most distinguishing feature you notice immediately from their face: curly hair, cute dimple, acne, big forehead, buck teeth, scar, etc. (obviously keep this information to yourself!). This step can be extremely easy or extremely hard, depending on the person. If someone has a unique feature that is obvious, then you can latch on to it quickly. Others who have generic faces or nothing special going on, it can be hard to find something. But, something is ALWAYS there. All it takes is a bit of practice in order to get better at picking out those things quicker. With time, it will become second nature.
3. LISTEN - Next, almost as important as the first. Listen! Make sure when you ask for the name, you actually hear it and understand it in the first place. Another common mistake when learning a person's name is that when one asks for the person's name it's actually neither properly heard nor understood. You need to be adamant about making sure you've heard the person's name properly. So, if you didn't get the name the first time, ASK FOR IT AGAIN! What's the big deal about asking for it once, twice, or even three times more? It's probably more embarrassing to forget a person's name entirely. Also, I've learned not to be embarrassed when asking foreign people for their name numerous times (I even ask for them to repeat it to me slowly and phonetically). I figure, they know their name isn't common and that a lot of people have trouble with it, so whats the big deal? I want to know your name!
4. NAME TO IMAGE - Finally, once you've heard the name, you need to process it. You first need to convert the name into an image, and then associate it with the distinguishing feature you picked out in step 2. There are numerous ways to turn a name into an image. The most important piece of advice I can give is to go with the image that strikes you first, without thinking. To come up with an image, the easiest is to go with a mental image of someone you know that has the same name (famous actor, friend, family, cartoon, etc.). Another way to come up with an image is to break down the name into things that it sounds like (ex: Steve sounds like "stove" or Jessica kind of sounds like "sickle"). It doesn't have to match the name to a T, it only needs to be enough to trigger the name.
5. ASSOCIATION - Once you have your image for the name, you need to associate it to the distinguishing feature from step 2. To associate one thing with the other, you need to create a mental image that connects the two things. Try to make the connection as vivid as possible (violence, humor, erotica, bizarreness are the best kind of memorable things). Use all the senses. Try using sound, color, or even smell!
Let's try an example:
Say the person you are meeting is me. I am tall, have a large nose, spiky hair, etc. If I were you, I would pick out my big nose (but it could be anything else). Once you are ready to hear my name, ask for it. Once I've told you my name, "Nelson," try to instantly come up with something that sounds like Nelson, or reminds you of a Nelson. To me, what comes to my head first is either Nelson Mandella or Nelson from the Simpson's TV show. Let's go with Nelson Mandella. So now you have to link (associate) Nelson Mandella with my big nose. This is when creativity sets in. No one way is correct. Personally, I would instantly think of Mandella as the ex-president of South Africa, serving time in prison (as he did for 27 years, many of those on Robben Island). So why don't we shove Mandella up my big nose and imagine him being IMPRISONED inside. Maybe the action of shoving him into my nose/prison causes it to bleed, or maybe you can imagine the noise it makes as the prison bars slam shut with a deafening CLANG!. Now the next time you see me, you won't struggle to remember my name. Instead, you'll see my big nose (the first thing that jumped out at you anyways) and then remember the prison and how Nelson Mandella was stuck in there. Nose => Prison => Mandella => NELSON! Voila!
Give it a go! If you want to push this technique a bit further, you can always find a list of most common male and female names (look here) and come up with pre-assigned images for each of those names. That way, whenever you hear a certain name, you know exactly what image to think of immediately. Brian => Brain, Steve => Stove, Alice => Lice, Vicky => Icky (slime), etc.
That's All. Go out and start trying it out today!