Monday, April 29, 2013

Remember Faces, but Not Names? You're Not Alone

 By Rose Strong

I have never felt completely comfortable in social situations. Be the event for business or pleasure I’m not always at ease, although you’d never know it. I can move around a room and make conversation with everyone and seemingly enjoy the occasion. All the while, my brain is spinning about what to say next, if what I said last was appropriate and witty or if I’m making a total fool of myself.

I can keep my distress so under wraps that I am able to introduce myself to those I don’t know. Then, I immediately forget their name. I can meet someone and only minutes later when introducing them to my coworker, partner or friend -- whoosh…………..the name has flown out of my brain and I’m left feeling completely embarrassed.

For years, I’ve heard and even made use of the cliché myself, “I’m great with faces; I just don’t remember names.”

As I am getting ready for two local events where I’ll be representing my company, it has occurred to me that perhaps I need to do a bit of research on how one can recall someone’s name after meeting them.

The all-time big tip you find doing this research is: repeat, repeat, repeat. I knew this from talking with others and reading it in books and magazines like this article from Forbes that suggested you do repetition of the name of the person you’ve just met both internally and vocally.

One thing Gina Rubel, our CEO, recommended is to immediately add the person’s name to your cell phone notes or even text yourself. One thing she also does when she’s going to an association function, is to review her contacts and make sure they all have photos attached to their vcards in Outlook. That way, the photos of people she’s previously met are on her cell phone when she attends the networking function. She also creates subfolders in Outlook for all of those similarly-situated contacts. That way, she can go straight to that list on her iPhone and scan 100 names as opposed to 3,000.

In looking for additional ways to improve my recall of names, I began to wonder why so many of us have such difficulty with this task. I found some great suggestions, and reasons we don’t remember names.

One thing I can say is that I’m happy I’m not in this boat all alone. It seems when we are introducing ourselves or someone tells us their name, we are often internally preoccupied with how we are handling the social activity or how we may be coming across to others making our auditory perception not as tuned in to the goings-on around us. The article by Kris Hallbom, co-director of the NLP Institute of California explains this more succinctly and gives some great tips on how to recall names.

Hallbom reveals one tip I hadn’t thought or heard of before: the use of touch and imagining using your finger to write the person’s name. Making the actual movements helps to embed their name into your head for better recall.

A tremendously interesting story on the BBC’s website  brought this all into perspective and there’s some scientific evidence as to why so many of us have an easier time recognizing a face, but not recall a name.

So, here’s a brief list to help recall names:

•    Repeat – Repeat the person’s name aloud several times in the course of the initial meeting and internally later.

•    Pay attention – Yes I know, this sounds like a no-brainer, but as mentioned before, we’re often so concerned with how we may come across that we aren’t concentrating on what the other person is saying.

•    Associate – This can be a bit tricky, but use something that will remind you of the person, such as a color or pattern they’re wearing. For example: teal Theresa, leopard Linda or navy blue Drew. If you’re a history buff or celebrity watcher, sometimes associating with those who may share first names of a historical character or celeb is helpful.

This is only a short list, but this blog from  has a dozen more ways to help recall names.

And if you’re looking for a way to fake it till you make it, this article by Gretchen Rubin, and author of the Happiness Project, gives you six ways to do just that.

Do you have any special methods for recalling names? If so, share it with me in the comments, I can use all the help I can get!

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