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How to Remember Names

Here is a mnemonic – a memory technique – to help you remember names.

You need to pay attention to the sound of the name as the person is being introduced. Then interest yourself in the person and have the intention to remember. Find ways to repeat the name to yourself while you visualize how you’ll link something in that person’s face to his or her name. Then check that the link you’ve created will remind you of the name.

It’s usually more effective to work to learn both the first and last name of each person you’re meeting. Both names together are more unique than just a first name. There are many people called Jack in the world, but not so many called Jack Pease.

The mnemonic is HELLO:

H – Hear
Make sure you’ve heard the name clearly enough to repeat it correctly.

E – Explore
Repeat the name back to the person and ask whether you’re saying it correctly. Ask how it is spelled, where it is from, and so forth. Repeat the name silently and out loud as often as you can while you…

L – Look
Look carefully at the face for any feature to which you can mentally attach the name. Sometimes just visualizing the name written on the person’s forehead will work.

L – Link
Link a feature of the face to the sound of the name by creating a ridiculous mental picture. Use action, colour, humour, or ‘sounds like’. (Keep your mental image to yourself; they might not appreciate it.)

O – Organize
Make sure your mental picture or link triggers the name in your mind when you look at their face. As soon as you get the opportunity, write down the name of the person you met and add a few notes so you will be able to recall the person’s face later.

You will find that if you use the HELLO technique consistently when you’re meeting someone for the first time, your name remembering skill will improve. You will not always be able to think of a visual image that reminds you of the name, but just by focussing your attention on the person’s face and thinking about the sound of the name, you will improve your ability to remember.

Here are some examples of visual images linking someone’s face and name:

  • Patricia Williams: Patricia sounds like patches, so I have patches on her face and she is writing her will using a yam.
  • Michael Taylor: I use a white glove (Michael Jackson) on the top of his head, which also has an old-fashioned, cross-legged tailor sitting there sewing the glove.
  • Zelia Chouinard: I imagine a big Z over her face and her hair is quite bushy and flat on top. Chouinard sounds like shoe-in-yard, so I stick a shoe in the yard of her hair.

Because so many people have difficulty remembering names, your effort will be much appreciated and the people you meet will tend to think you’re caring and intelligent. You will also be improving your ability to use your memory more effectively.

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