If you have a hard time remembering people's names, you're not alone. We have all experienced it--you meet someone and scramble to remember their name. It's frustrating.
A new study shows part of the reason why: The name of someone you've just met doesn't convey much meaning. This is known as the Baker Effect. If someone new tells you they're a baker, they're giving you context about their life and what they do. But if they say their last name is Baker, you don't have any mental links to help it stick.
The trick, then, is to make names meaningful and increase your ability to remember them. Here are 7 techniques that can help.
1. Say it, say it, say it.
Using a person's name creates a connection that acknowledges them as valued and remembered. It makes them feel good and helps you remember. Get in the habit of using people's names often.
2. Stay in the present.
When you're introduced to someone, pay close attention and do everything you can to focus on that person. If you zone out or get distracted, names won't register. Be present and concentrate, especially when the name is being said. Being present also helps you make a memorable connection.
3. Repeat and replay.
The best way to remember a name is to repeat it after you are introduced to someone. Repeat it in your head and say it out loud, even before you say your own: "Stacey, hi--I'm Jack. It's nice to meet you." Make it clear and show that you're genuinely pleased to meet them. Continue to use their name in conversation (without overdoing it, of course). Use it again when you're leaving, and then write it down later with a short description.
4. Play the association game.
When you hear the name, try to associate it with something you've learned about the person: Becky rides a bike, Fred likes to fish, Michael works in marketing. It's a simple technique that really works.
5. Study the face.
Be discreet, but take the time to study people's facial features and try to find something easy to remember about them. If possible, combine this with association. Connect the name with their most prominent feature--for example, "big forehead Ben."
Cross-reference the name you're learning with something that's happened to you. If you're meeting someone named Shelly, you might remember that your college roommate was Shelly, and she had smelly feet. It really helps you remember, and it might bring a smile to your face.
7. Trust yourself.
It's easy to fall back on saying, "Oh, I just can never remember names." But you can, of course. Work on creating a new habit by trying these techniques, and then learn to trust yourself and raise your expectations. You can do this.
Remembering names is one of the most powerful things you can do to make people feel important and to build meaningful relationships. Few things are a better use of your time and energy than developing this valuable skill.