How to remember more names

Stop forgetting names by using this one simple method

Whether we love it or hate it, our name is key to our identity. Names are how we introduce ourselves to people; so you could say that they are pretty important and that we should remember the name of each person we meet.

But what happens when you forget someone’s name?

It’s embarrassing for you, but it also puts you in a dilemma. Do you ask them again and risk offending them by showing you weren’t concentrating on what they were saying, or do you wait and try to find out their name another way? Neither option is ideal; it is much better to remember their name from the start!

If you show that you know someone’s name, it is the best complement you can give. It shows you care and paves the way for better relationships in your social and professional life. However, if you get a name wrong, then you can come across rude which isn’t the best first impression to give.

But it’s all very well having good intentions. However hard we try, we may still forget, so what can we do to improve our memory and remember more names?

Daily struggle

You can’t escape the fact that some names are boring.

You probably know so many people called Jack or Emma that when you meet someone new with those names it just isn’t memorable enough to stick in your mind. (This is true for all common names- so if you are called Jack or Emma there’s no need to be offended!)

The opposite can also be true.

If you meet someone with a name that is so unique and that you’ve never heard before, it can be hard to remember because it is so unfamiliar. You may not know how to spell it or to pronounce it, and so it can all too easily slip from your mind.

But by implementing the following method, you should find it easier to remember the names of the people you meet.


It sounds obvious, but you need to listen as the person introduces themselves!

Too often, when we meet someone new, we are so worried about how we come across and what we say that we forget to listen to the other person. By making sure we are focusing on remembering their name, we can improve our chances of it sticking.

We remember things that are important, so make remembering the name a high priority when you meet someone new!

More than words

The main trick to memorising names is to make the person’s name mean something to you. You need to add emotional cues to make the name more memorable and, crucially, link it to the person.

Why do we need to do this?

Well, we remember things like visual images and emotions like fear, humour, and disgust, much better than we do words.

Picture the name

So, the next step is to associate their name with something to make it more visual.

This will take some practice, but essentially you just need to link the name with the first image that comes into your head. Maybe they share the name with a celebrity or someone you already know; if that’s the case, then create a vivid image using these people, making sure it is funny or memorable in other ways.

If the name is unfamiliar and you can’t link it to someone else, then think about how the name sounds. Does it sound like a place or an object for example? Substituting the name, or sounds in the name, for other words and forming images from these words will help you to remember it.

These images will act as mental hooks to link the name to pre-existing information, helping you to recall the name when needed.

The main point here is that the image each person has for each name will be unique and personal to them. For this method to work, you need to use the first image that comes into your head, not anyone else’s, as the whole point is to link something new and unfamiliar (the name) to something familiar.

Link it all together

This is all very well, but it’s no use remembering a name if you can’t match it to the face!

If you meet a room full of people, you will hear lots of names, but how do you know which name goes with which person?

It’s surprisingly simple.

You just need to extend the image you have created for the name and attach it to the person.

You need to find something distinctive about the person that won’t change (so don’t use clothes!). This could be glasses, hair colour/style, their nose, ears, chin, height, or anything else that’s permanent.

By linking the image of their name to the person’s feature, you are forming an association and a chain of mental hooks that will lead you to remember that person’s name.

Ready to remember more names

Check out the video to see this technique put into practice.

Remembering names this way sounds childlike and time-consuming, but the important thing is that it does work!

Transforming a name into a visual image and associating it with a person’s features creates links that are much harder to forget than a few letters.

Try applying this technique when you next meet someone. Just don’t tell them how you remember their name as it might raise some awkward questions!

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