Bad With Names? Here’s How To Remember Them

Finally, a way to avoid those awkward ‘hey you’ conversations

We’ve all been there, you’ve just been introduced to someone for the first time and almost immediately their name has left your memory bank sending you into a sweaty-palmed panic worrying about how you’ll handle the situation if someone else joins the conversation and polite society dictates you introduce your new no-name friend to a third party.

Worse, what if that no-name person is your brand new boss? There’s nothing bosses or even regular people love more than being referred to as ‘you’ or being pointed at because you have no other way to indicate who you’re talking to.

But, don’t worry you’re not alone. Everyone has trouble remembering names to some degree and Refinery 29 reports there’s even a study about why this is so. According to the study authored by Lise Abrams and Danielle Davis from the University of Florida’s department of psychology, “Research has documented that proper names are more difficult to learn and remember than other types of words.”

The cause of this Refinery 29 says quoting the study is because names are “relatively arbitrary,” a name doesn’t really “describe anything about the person, so it might be harder for you to remember it.”

Whatever the cause, being bad with names is a reality for most people but there are tricks that can turn that awkward name forgetting trait around.

The director of the Memory and Plasticity Program at the University of California, Charan Ranganath, shared with Time a few recommendations for remembering people’s names including employing “mnemonic devices”. Ranganath said find something about the person that rhymes with their name, like “John the jogger” and it’ll be easier to remember.

Ranganath also recommends repeating the person’s name after they say it – this is a trick polished politicians often use and if you’re ever listening to say, Barack Obama give a two-way interview you’ll notice how often he uses the interviewer’s name. 

Forbes reports psychiatrist Dr Gary Small suggests, “Asking someone to spell his or her name, especially if it’s an unusual one. This technique can be helpful if you have a visual memory as it creates a mental picture of the person’s name.”

As doable as these options are, there’s always the back-up plan to ask the person their name again, they probably won’t mind and will definitely prefer it to being called ‘you’.

Related stories