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How to Remember Names - Remembering Names is a Neglected Skill

Updated on February 3, 2013

Can You Picture this Guy Moonwalking?

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Remembering names of people you meet at a party is a good idea, but remembering the name of your customer is a great idea. Look no further than you own life to get the point. Do you feel more positive toward someone who addresses you by your name? Of course you do. What so many business and professional people don't get is that one of the simplest ways to gain customer loyalty is simply to remember the person's name. You don't have to have a photographic memory; you just have to follow some simple rules.

I try to make it easy for a business owner to know my name, because I like to be addressed that way. One way I do this is to use my full name when signing a credit card, not just initials. This is an opportunity for the business owner to get to know me by name. Notice that I say it's an opportunity, because it is. I read about a guy who was so intent on getting to know his customers' names that he would jot down the license plate number of whoever pulled into the parking lot. He would then run a search with the motor vehicle department to find out who owns the car. Now THAT is being serious about using a customer's name.

See if this sounds familiar to you. There is a local hardware store that I patronized for years. I would always refer to the owner by his first name. This was never reciprocated. I always put my name very clearly on the credit card slip. He didn't seem to care. I once met the guy at a social event and someone formally introduced us. Still, he never addressed me by name. A new hardware store opened in town about equidistant to the one I mentioned above. I have never returned to the no-name store again. My wife and I frequent a diner nearby where just about everybody addresses us by name, from the owner to the check out lady to the waitresses. I don't doubt that if I walked into the kitchen a dishwasher would hail me by name. This diner is one of the most expensive around, but when we go there we feel special.

How to Remember Names

There are only two things to keep in mind when trying to remember a name. These are two tips. Hint: tip number two is the most important.

1. Use mnemonics. A mnemonic device is simply a way to assist your memory. The time honored mnemonic to use when you meet someone is to associate the person's name with something outlandishly visual. You have no doubt heard of this before, but it requires some elaboration. The crazier the visual image that you form the better. For example, any time I am introduced to a guy named Phil, I picture a gigantic couch with TV's ubiquitous psychologist Dr. Phil sitting in front of it and the guy I just met lying down on it. I always associate the name Bob with someone bobbing in a pool holding onto a large beach ball. The point of all this is that we human beings remember things by association. The more outlandish the association, the more likely it is that you will remember it. It's useful to have a list in your mind of ready associations for common names. In his book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, journalist Joshua Foer recounted his experience at becoming a memory expert. The title of his book illustrates the importance of outlandish association. In recalling a particular event, Foer pictured Albert Einstein moonwalking. Sticks in your mind, no?

2. Pay attention. As I mentioned above, this is the most important of the two name-remembering tips. So you get the idea of making a crazy association with a person's name in order to remember it. So what? Unless you focus on the task when you are introduced you will blow the chance. We need to get into a mindset to be alert and focused when introduced, otherwise, you will forget to use the mnemonic.

What about being introduced to a person whose name you never heard before? You find yourself stuck because you can't think of an associative image for a Zeke. Here's what to do. Engage Zeke in a conversation and use his name at least three times. Yes, this may sound like you're force feeding your brain but it works. "Hi Zeke, what an interesting name. How do you spell it? Tell me Zeke, have you been to this restaurant before? Are you from around here Zeke." You get the idea. You have to focus. By the time your brief conversation ends, you may have come up with an image association of Zeke sitting on top of Mt Everest, the world's tallest peak (rhymes with Zeke) holding a gigantic "Z."

Remembering a person's name is one of the most important skills we can develop, especially if that person is a customer or prospective customer. All it takes is paying attention and making up a crazy association.

Copyright © 2012 by Russell F. Moran

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    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Excellent point. Repeating a name a few times is an excellent method. Linking it with the topic is also interesting, although that sounds like something I would "forget."

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 years ago from Pasadena CA

      Zeke was my youngest brother's cat's name - now deceased. ;) I agree that point #2 is most important. Even repeating the person's name doesn't work, though, unless you're paying attention and INTENDING to remember. I started making it a habit to repeat names while shaking hands, i.e. "Hi Rob, it's great to meet you." Two minutes later I'd forgotten his name, so I realized my intention to remember is everything. Now I associate "Rob" with the topic we're discussing. "So Rob, you work with the Citizen's Climate Lobby. What is it you do with them?" And I'm thinking, "Rob. Citizen's Climate Lobby." Then I'll remember every time I see him and also whenever someone mentions the CCL.

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. I'll remember your name!

    • vibesites profile image

      vibesites 4 years ago from United States

      That's my weakness. I remember faces but I don't remember names. My mind is more images-oriented, which is weird because I'm a female and females are usually supposed to remember these kinds of details. I will definitely give this a try. Thanks for posting. :)

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks. Definitely give it a try.

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks. Definitely give it a try.

    • MomsTreasureChest profile image

      MomsTreasureChest 4 years ago

      Thanks for the memory tips, I'm definitely going to give them a try!

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thank you for your visit and for your comment

    • Little Grandmommy profile image

      Gail 4 years ago from Small Town Tennessee

      For myself, I really like it when someone remembers my name and maybe small details about me. It makes doing business with folks much friendlier. Well written. Thanks!

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      It's from the book, Moonwalking with Einstein. It is a neumonic used by the author.

    • Sustainable Sue profile image

      Sustainable Sue 4 years ago from Altadena CA, USA

      I'm sorry, but I don't get the moonwalking association. If I had to remember Einstein's name, I'd associate him with my niece's dog . . . or wait. I remembered the dog's name by associating him with the person. Oh well. Really, Russ. Is there an association between moonwalking and Albert Einstein? (The atom bomb yes, but . . . )

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Ken - Foer is an amazing guy - He starts to report a story and then becomes a national champ on the subject matter. I did an article on the expanded subject of memory. You'll get a kick out of it. https://hubpages.com/health/A-Photographic-Memory-...

    • Kenja profile image

      Ken Taub 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      This guy, Mr. Maroon or Ruff Roman, whatever, pens these super useful Hubs. Great, helpful nuggets of information...... Seriously Russ, I'm in the middle of Moonwalking with Einstein now, and I find it an entertaining, fascinating read. Not your standard Memory How To book, to be sure. One of the best pieces of educational, investigative journalism I have ever read. Foer can surely write -- and talk about getting into your research!

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for your comments and observations Q.

    • QudsiaP1 profile image

      QudsiaP1 4 years ago

      Dear Russ,

      I couldn't possibly put this subject in better words if I tried. I am in banking where on a daily basis I meet various customers and believe it or not; the single handed best service to provide is to remember a person's name. After all when you go out in the market there are a million shops offering the same variety of product yet we go to the ones where people are most pleasant to us and at least in part treat us fairly.

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      I went to a social event last night. Having written this hub helped me to remember to practice what I preach.

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for the visit Turtledog. Glad you liked it. The Times article I cite is a great summary of Moonwalking.

    • nothuk profile image

      nothuk 4 years ago from Varna, Bulgaria

      Great hub and very useful tips :) Following them really could save you some uncomfortable moments of not knowing the name of someone you already have met several times before.

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 4 years ago

      Thanks for the memory tips! I certainly need them. Moonwalking With Einstein is a great book to reference on this topic. Nice job. Voted up. Thanks

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks spartacus. I hope it helps.

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

      I absolutely agree that remembering names is important and it makes a big difference. Thanks for the practical tips!

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks Bill. That is your name, yes? I forget

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bravo my friend! A lost skill in customer service, and one that is so important. Great suggestions, ones I have had to work at over the years.

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks julie. If you get this down you'll never have to say "I'll never forget good old whats-his-name."

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      I'm so bad at this so this article was really helpful!