Most of us know how embarrassing it can be to forget someone’s name, but strategies are available to help us out.


Author Lisa Kanarek set out to improve her ability to remember people’s names. In doing so, she enlisted the help of two experts—a neurosurgeon and a world record holder in memory. One of the first things she discovered was that when we meet someone, we are often focused on impressing them rather than learning about them. In essence, we’re more concerned with trying to be interesting than taking the time to listen. Kanarek discovered there were a few ways to help improve our ability to recall names:

Focus on retrieval. It’s easier to retrieve something from your mind a short time after learning it, so even recalling the name once—shortly after learning it—can help solidify it.

Search for something unique. After you meet someone, say it back, e.g. ‘Nice to meet you, Bill’. Then try to give their name some meaning. For instance, the person could share the same name as a relative or your favourite actor, so try to make a connection that way.

File names and notes electronically. Kanarek uses a notes app on her phone to help remember names and information about people she meets. She recommends that soon after meeting someone, you enter their name and a few facts about the person and where you met. 

As with any skill, practice makes perfect. One of the experts Kanarek consulted said: ‘There’s no such thing as a good or bad memory for names—only a good or bad memory strategy’.


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Sep 2021 The Guardian 10 essential tricks for remembering people’s names