Memory improvement tips for names

Let’s list some memory improvement tips for names

Unless this isn’t a problem for you, you need some memory improvement tips for names so that you’re well prepared for the job. On this page, I’ll list several memory strategies, and you can decide which ones will best help you answer the question, how to improve your memory for names. Some of them focus on the person’s physicality, some on the structure of the name itself and the sound of it, or the way it could rhyme with, or be linked to, something else, and some with your own mental attitude.

With that in mind, let’s move on.

1 Physicality

Find something physical that you can attach to the person’s name. Of all the memory strategies for memorising names, this is the first, because what a person looks like strikes you immediately, and makes an impression.

Maybe the man you’ve just met has a sallow complexion, or a protruding adam’s apple, or staring eyes, or a very angular face. Perhaps the woman you’ve just met has darting eyes, constantly moving this way and that, or maybe she’s painfully thin, or gaunt. Did you notice she has dark bags under her eyes? Did she purse her lips a lot? Or was she particularly shapely (oh, you noticed … well done)! Maybe she had really long, delicate fingers … or well-defined eyebrows.

Whatever it was you noticed, feature these characteristics in your mental image, but exaggerated as in a cartoonist’s caricature, and at the same time repeat the person’s name in your mind. And go with your first impressions – don’t search for a particularly noteworthy characteristic, because the first one that comes to mind will likely be the most lasting.

2 Get the name clear

If you have a great memory, maybe you don't need memory improvement tips for names!Make sure you’ve got the name clearly in mind, even if it means asking the person to repeat it once or twice. They won’t mind – it’s a compliment that you’re interested enough to get their name right. And how to remember a name you didn’t even hear properly? Almost impossible!

Just politely say something like, “I know you said your name, but it’s completely gone out of my head!” or, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I caught your name right, what was it again?”

Just don’t start apologising for having a bad memory for names (see number 5, below)!

3 Rhyming and alliteration

One of the most basic of the memory improvement tips for names is to make a rhyme, using the person’s name and anything that you think will remind you of him or her. Try to come up with something catchy, like ‘Tommy Ryland, big guy, always smilin’, ‘George Green, he’d keep you talkin’ till you scream’, ‘Benny Chester, bit of a jester’, ‘Philipa Davis, sounds like Mavis’ [a former Coronation Street character], ‘Eva Jones, never phones’, ‘Russel Perry, always merry’. It doesn’t matter much what the rhyme is about, as long as you remember it! It’s a memory technique that works well, and it’s well worth employing it.

Focus on a physical feature - one of the best memory improvement tips for namesAlliteration just means matching the same initial letter or sound. Just as kiddies’ rhymes are easy for them to remember because they’re full of rhyming words and alliteration, you can use this simple technique to link the name to a characteristic of the person. Like ‘Big beak Billy’, because he’s got a bit of big nose (sorry, Bill!).

For Lancaster, of course, you could use an image of a Lancaster bomber, but if that wasn’t available (e.g. if you didn’t have a clue what a Lancaster bomber looked like), you could just say to yourself “Lancaster runs faster”, and repeat it to yourself a few times, visualising Lancaster running like an Olympian.

For Kimble you could say to yourself, “Mr Kimble lives in a thimble” (assuming he was quite a small person), and repeat that a few times, seeing him trying to climb out of what to him is a gigantic thimble, since he’s so tiny. There won’t always be an obvious link and rhyme, but if you keep a look out for them, they’ll come to mind much more readily than if you don’t even try.

4 Create interesting images

memory improvement tips for names, e.g. create a memorable image

Could this possibly be Mr. Fox?

Use visual images connected with the name. Lots of names have them built in, such as the ones I’ve listed on a separate page (remembering names using imagery).

Imagine the person taking part in that particular image (see Harper playing a harp in a really crazy, animated way, Thatcher thatching a roof, sheaves of reeds flying everywhere in the exaggerated, cartoony action, Redpath painting a path bright red and getting covered in red paint in the process, Fox with a big bushy tail attached to him or her,  Porter carrying bags that are bulging at the seams (or pouring a glass of Port), Goldman made of gold (like an Oscar statuette), Victor wearing a gleaming gold laurel crown, Upchurch climbing a dizzyingly high church steeple, Armstrong flexing his enormous biceps, etc).

These names, the ones with images ‘built in’, are a gift for you if you have trouble with names. They immediately suggest an image, and it’s up to you to work with it and make that image memorable. Creating interesting and absorbing images is a basic memory strategy, and you should definitely make use of it.

5 Stay positive about your memory skills

Among the most important memory improvement tips for names is positivity. So stop repeating how ‘bad’ you are at remembering names (I know, I have to pay attention to this one as well)! We become so used to repeating this mantra that it becomes more and more true. We need to say, more often and with more feeling, “I’m actually quite good at remembering names!”, and “My memory for names is getting better and better, as it is for everything else”. The more we positively reinforce this idea, the more we believe it and implement memory techniques successfully with regard to names.

Make no mistake, repeating such affirmations has a definite effect. Your subconscious is always listening, and acting on what it hears. If it’s convinced you’re ‘bad’ at names, what incentive does it have to help you improve? As a matter of fact, you’re unwittingly giving it a direct instruction to make you be as bad at remembering names as you seem to think you are!

6 Repetition

Tweety-Pie's voice could be among the memory improvement tips for namesOne simple way to improve your memory for names is to repeat the name you’ve just heard and listen to how it sounds (you can just do it ‘in your head’, you don’t need to start ranting about this person’s name right in front of him)!

Repeat it to yourself again and again, making it sound different each time, and maybe a bit weird.

You could even imagine hearing it in a cartoon character’s voice. Trying to remember a name if you imagine hearing it in Popeye’s voice, or Tweety Pie squawking it, is a lot more likely to make it stick in your memory than if you just ‘hear’ it in your own voice.

7 Pay attention to the spelling

See the name spelt out! And if you’re not sure of the spelling, ask. People don’t mind being asked how their name is spelt; it shows that you’re interested and want to get it right, which is, after all, a compliment.

names in neon lights would constitute one of the memory improvement tips for namesSee each letter, or each group of 3, 4, or 5 letters, jiggling about, dancing, glowing, and perhaps even singing (if they have faces, and that’s up to you)! Feel free to add as much detail and action as you can. For example, you could sometimes imagine a name spelt out in glass neon lettering, like you’d see in a shop window (and maybe flashing on and off as though the sign is faulty), or as blocky, three-dimensional letters standing on a plinth, or as letters that are made of sculpted ice, or granite, or on fire.

The key is to make the images sharp and precise, and preferably moving. Giving them life makes them noticeable to your brain, and your brain just loves to collect noticeable things, but hates wasting valuable time and energy collecting boring, everyday stuff.

8 Use ‘chunking’

Split the name into parts in your mind, e.g. Wain-wright, New-berry, Silver-berg, etc. Become more familiar with the parts of the word and it will tend to stick in your memory easier. Be creative with the parts – if they don’t already come with ready-made images attached, make some images up. And, as always, make the images larger than life, ridiculous, frivolous, comic, sexy, violent, macabre, or whatever you think is appropriate (or highly inappropriate!), or whatever suggests itself.

Remember, you can make up any image you like, in your mind, and they can’t touch you for it! 🙂

9 Write it down

Write it down … oh great, thanks a bunch, I never thought of that one!

Yeah, I know, blindingly obvious, and you won’t necessarily have the time or opportunity to write a person’s name down as soon as you meet them, but as soon as you get the chance, make a note of it (plus, I couldn’t really write a page on memory improvement tips for names and leave this one out, now could I??)

Also, note down anything about that person that tells you, in a flash, what he or she is like. Note down anything that you can link to that person, and his or her name, so that they all (hopefully) become inextricably linked in a little memory web all of its own.

For example, you could note down the kind of work they do, or where they come from, roughly how old they are, or anything really that will distinguish them from everyone else. This should ideally be in a notebook you keep with you specifically for noting down things you need to remember. And it should be with the name, clearly written in BOLD LETTERING.

10 Writing … without writing!

Another good way to help remember a name is to write it down with your finger. Just use your finger like a pen and write the name down on the palm of your other hand. There’s something very physical about writing something down, even if it’s only with your finger, and even if you’re only imagining seeing the written name. It has almost the same effect as using a pen, except, of course, it’s more difficult to refer to your notes later! Also, of course, it’s the kind of thing you can do surreptitiously, without attracting attention.

I hope these few memory improvement tips for names help you become more name-retentive in future. As for me … still working on it!

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