4 Tricks For Remembering Anybody’s Name

We’ve all been there–that panicky moment at a conference or meeting where you go to say someone’s name and realize there’s nothing there but a big fat blank. Here’s how to put names to faces and build better relationships.

4 Tricks For Remembering Anybody’s Name

“When you fail to remember someone’s name,” Darlene Price tells Forbes, “it sends a clear message that you do not deem them important.”


Why? The Well Said! author says that since we all take the time to remember important things–birthdays, anniversaries, where the good ice cream is–letting a name slip away suggests that you think theirs is “seemingly irrelevant.”

But if you actually remember this new person’s name, they’ll leave the conversation all aglow.

“Learning another person’s name is the first, most basic step in showing respect and building a meaningful relationship,” Price says. So if relationships are key to doing your best business–which, surprise, they are–we should be intentional about forming them. It just takes a little practice.

Challenge your naming conventions

It’s possible to cure relationship-sabotaging forgetfulness, Price says, but first you need to adjust your attitude to the whole thing. Recognize that remembering is a skill to be cultivated–just like charisma–then focus on these techniques:

  • Fully engage: Don’t divide your attention. Getting distracted is easy–thoughts like Oh, this person reminds me of this person! or I’m hungry! or Do I seem awkward? I think I’m awkward will probably pop up–so be mindful of that fact that you’re trying to get to know this person.
  • Repeat their name: Engrave that name into your frontal lobe with repetition. Price says to say the name aloud twice: first to confirm that you’re saying it correctly, second as a conversation starter.
  • Make an association: Associations–mnemonic devices if you’re fancy–are tools of the memory building trade. Joshua Foer says that his epic “how to remember everything” book Moonwalking With Einstein got its name because the image of “Albert Einstein sliding backwards across a dance floor wearing penny loafers and a diamond glove” is pretty much unforgettable. Use your natural goofiness to your advantage–it’ll anchor your memory.
  • Conclude with their name: Close the conversation by saying their name. It’ll be validating for them–aw, they remembered!–and give you another chance to convince your neurons to fire that way again.

And if you’re scared of all this small talk, we’ve got some tools for that, too.

Do you have a personal best practice for remembering names? Share with us in the comments, Joe.


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.