How to Not Be “Bad at Remembering Names”

How to not be

We’ve all been there: you meet someone new, shake their hand, then two seconds later, you’ve completely forgotten their name. Embarrassing, right? Many people (myself included) manage to shrug off the embarrassment by saying, “I’m just bad at remembering names.” But is being “bad at remembering names” really a thing? Or just an excuse?

I recently moved to Evanston, IL to pursue my MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and have been forced to put my name remembering skills to test. Over the past two weeks, I have met over 100 new people including my future classmates, their friends, and significant others, but I’ve actually surprised myself in my ability to remember each person’s name. I realize now that I was never actually “bad at names,” I just wasn’t making a conscious decision to care.

Everyone struggles with remembering names. Perhaps it’s just the nature of conversation – that introductions are just a formality that we are so accustom to, we don’t pay attention. But if you make a conscious effort to remember someone, you can position yourself to build a stronger rapport with that person in the long run.

Remembering someone’s name can actually be very simple. The next time you meet someone new, consider these tips:

Decide that you care.

This is the first and most important tip in remembering someone’s name. More often than not, people forget names because they haven’t made a conscious decision to care. So, commit. Decide that you want to remember this person from the second you start talking to them and you will become more aware of the mechanics of how to remember them.

Repeat their name out loud after they introduce themselves.

By saying someone’s name out loud, you are reinforcing their name in your own memory. Be natural and say, “It’s nice to meet you, ______.” The more times you can repeat their name throughout the conversation, the more likely you are to remember it.

Make an association of that person to something your own life.

Let’s say you’ve just met someone named Mike. If you can draw a connection to other “Mike’s” in your life, it might help you remember this new Mike in the future. Of course, you won’t always know someone with the same name, so try and draw other connections throughout the conversation. Perhaps you and Mike are both bloggers. Or maybe you share a mutual friend or have similar career goals. Try reciting these connections in your head such as, “Mike has a travel blog,” “Mike knows my friend Laura,” or “Mike wants to be an astronaut.”

Ask for a reminder.

Now, forgetting someone’s name doesn’t mean that you don’t care. It happens. You are human. If this happens to you, don’t be afraid to ask someone to remind you of their name. It’s better to do that during an initial conversation than to run into them at a later date and they remember you, but you don’t remember them. Awkward!

Say their name again when then conversation ends.

Again, repetition is key. When the conversation ends, say, “It was great meeting you, ______.”

As I continue to meet new people over the next couple of years, I am excited to put these tricks to test and further strengthen my own name remembering skills. Do you have an tricks for remembering names?


Lisa FollmuthI am the founder and author of Strum Simmer Sip – a lifestyle blog dedicated to those who share a penchant for great food, music, and life experiences. A foodie and musician myself, my goal is to help inspire others to live healthy, productive, and positive lives. A California native at heart, I was born and raised in Long Beach and educated at UC San Diego. After receiving my undergraduate degree in Management Science, I moved to San Francisco to launch my professional career in healthcare consulting at Deloitte Consulting, LLP. Currently, I am pursuing a full-time MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

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