Are you one of those people that can hear a name one time and remember it forever? I'm jealous if so because I am most certainly in the 'what was your name again' club--and it's not all that glorious (as many of you know). Good news, you can blame science. Better news, you can do something about it--a lot, in fact.

Let's start with a quick test:

In case this is a topic you're unfamiliar with, let me introduce it by way of a simple trivia question. You should have no problem with it--nearly everyone knows the answer. 

In the biblical story of the great flood, how many of each animal did Moses bring onto the ark?

Two, right? 

Well, it would be right, except that Moses didn't bring any animals at all onto the ark--that was Noah. 

Did I get you?

Truth is, when names look alike, sound alike, or have a similar context, we tend to confuse them easily. Those are referred to respectively as visual illusions, phonetic illusions, and semantic illusions, by the way.

And as we increasingly rely on technology for memory assistance, it's understandable that we'd become even worse at remembering names. The problem is, it's not getting any less important to do it. When someone forgets our name, it might be a natural reflex to brush it off and say "don't worry about it." But if it's someone we look up to or intend to establish a dialogue with, it certainly can sting a bit, and lead us to feel as if we're forgettable. 

Naming the Real Problem (and Solving it)

So, if science says that,

a) names are especially easy to forget, and 

b) names are vitally important to remember,

The obvious question becomes: how in the world do we bridge that gap? 

There's no shortage of techniques out there. Here are five, here's another five, and if those don't help, try these eleven. The trick is to figure out which ones work for you, and that requires a mindset. 

My favorite is Dale Carnegie's memory-linking technique, who suggests to:

"Paint a mind picture of the person whose name you wish to remember doing something that reminds you of the person's name. Have the face and body of the person you wish to remember in the picture so that, when the picture comes to mind, you get both the face and the name."

Overall, you have to first accept that remembering a name is a valuable skill, and then dispense with that old, go-to excuse--'I'm terrible with names'. Well, look, I'm willing to bet you're terrible at the fiddle, too, but how much effort have you put into learning it? 

Besides, when you finally get to meet Natalie Portman, do you really want to confuse her for Keira Knightley?

Published on: Dec 14, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.