There is a myth that some people have fantastic memories and some cannnot remember anything. In fact, our memories are probably much more similar in capacity and operation than we think.
We tend to remember things that interest us or are made memorable in some way. So some men can remember football scores going back years but not their wedding aniversary which occurs each year, because they are more engaged with their sport than their marriage. We are more likely too to remember things that are amusing or silly or vivid.
For all of us, remembering things is usually a matter of technique – but most of us only use a few of the many techniques available. This short essay offers a variety of ideas, varying in usage and complexity. Give them a try and use what works for you.
How to remember names
Try this five-stage sequential technique:
- Listen: when you are first introduced to someone, really listen to their name rather than thinking about what to say. If the name is not offered, ask for it politely.
- Respond: immediately use the name in a suitable response, such as “It’s really good to meet you, Jack” or “I’m so glad that you could visit, Jane”.
- Visualize: try to link a visual cue of that person with their name in image which is vivid and memorable. Maybe the name Jack reminds you of a lumberjack and you picture him in a Canadian forest; Jane rhymes with pane, so you might picture seeing her through a pane of glass.
- Repeat: as you leave the gathering, say farewell to people using their names and recalling the cues. “It was good to meet you, Roger” (maybe you picture a Jolly Roger pirate flag) or “Let’s do lunch, Helen” (you imagine her face launching ships).
Rehearse: as you sit at a dinner party or at a business meeting, mentally go around reminding yourself of each person’s name and visual cue; if you are going to a meeting or other event, where you expect to come across some people you know, on the way there, think about who you might expect to see and bring to your mind the name and cue.