how to remember names

Jay Clouse leadership, learning, motivation

It’s one of the most common phrases I hear.

I’m really bad with names.

I’m sorry, there’s no way I’m going to remember all these names.

Brains aren’t naturally better or worse at remembering names! The human brain stores information in short-term memory for no more than 20-30 seconds at a time. That’s any information – whether it’s an address, directions, ingredients for a pineapple upside down cake, or a name.

If you want to retain that information, it requires rehearsal so it can be moved to your long-term memory.

This can take many forms – some people will repeat a piece of information over and over in their mind after hearing it. Others will carry a pen and paper and write information down to refer to later. I add friends on Facebook or Linkedin so that I can begin associating names to faces. I’ve even created spreadsheets with names and defining characters to study later when I have a big influx, like starting a new job.

The method doesn’t matter, the point is the key to remembering names is rehearsing those names – either before your 20-30 second window closes, or writing it down to rehearse later.

Remembering names is an essential skill to forming strong relationships quickly. So few people take the time and effort, and there is no sound sweeter to someone’s ear than their own name.

No more excuses. It’s not about “being bad at remembering names” – it’s a failure to care.


h/t to a fantastic conversation with my friend Pranav Wednesday morning who reminded me of this soapbox.


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