Your Name Again?: Tips for Remembering Names
    Photo by Rachel Fobar / North by Northwestern

    We’ve all had that moment. You’re hanging out on campus and someone walks up to say "hi." A feeling of panic overwhelms you; the individual looks so familiar, but you can’t remember their name! Nervously wracking your brain’s memory you smile and try to hide the fact that you don’t know the person standing in front of you.

    With a little practice, you can avoid such embarrassing situations. Consider some of these tips and tricks the next time you meet someone new!

    Pronounce the name correctly

    Not only will this save you embarrassment down the line, repeating it gives you extra time to solidify the connection between the person and their name.

    Insert their name in the conversation

    In your first conversation, include their name while you're speaking a couple times. Don't be obnoxious about it, but the repetition really helps.

    Ask for a random fact

    Don't just ask a run-of-the-mill question. Those major/hometown/dorm facts slide so easily from the memory. Instead, ask about the weirdest place they've been, or what their TV soul character is. The answer might completely surprise you, searing your brain forevermore with that person's particular answer.

    Name games/songs

    This method is great for larger groups. Play a game like "Zoomy-zoomy" or "Zoo" where you have to remember names in order to win. You just might have fun doing it, too! Otherwise, finding a song with that person's name in it (or making a song about that person's name....preferably not on the spot) is helpful. Why do you think teachers made you sing those songs about all the states? They are a fantastic memory aid!

    Friend them on Facebook

    This might require you to learn their full name, but it’s probably worth it. Once you make that online connection, you’ll be able to see what friends/interests you have in common. Name-face recognition also gets easier when you can find a picture of the person readily.

    Don't memorize by outfit

    Associating an outfit with a name will serve you well for that first day, but the plan will immediately fall apart the next time you meet. Not advised.

    Don't repeat the name over and over again

    At least don't do this in the person's presence. It's creepy. Repetition helps, but not to the point where the other person wants to forget you and how weird you are.

    Don’t make up a name

    If you can’t remember a name, be honest, or avoid situations where you would have to say the name. Creating a nickname based on a physical feature or a personality trait is not the way to go. Nicknames can wait until you know the person well enough to remember their actual name.

    Whether you are joining a new club, or just sitting in the dining hall, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to someone you don’t know. With the advice above, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting a name. Get out there and make some new friends!


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