By Alan Graner
I’m tired of introducing myself to people at networking events only to have them stare at me quizzically and remind me we met last time…and the time before that.
For years I thought it was a symptom of getting old (“It’s a pity—dementia, you know”). Or (gasp) even worse: Alzheimer’s!
If you forget a name it’s not your fault. It’s theirs!
At least, that’s what PSYBLOG claims.
One popular explanation for our inability to remember names is they have weak semantic hooks: There’s usually no association between a name and how a person looks or her profession or age or social class.
As a result, our brains consider names meaningless, even if they do have meaning. For example, many surnames cite the original ancestor’s profession (Baker) or location (von Strasburg) or son of (McTavish, Olson, etc.) But still we can’t remember them.
The article states, “Oddly we find it easier to remember that a person is a potter, i.e., makes pots, than if their surname is actually Potter.”
The inability to remember names can lead to crazy conversations in which no names are ever mentioned, a phenomenon I like to call…
Hey, remember that actor?
The one that was in that movie with the horse?
The cowboy picture?
Yeah, that’s the one.
Right, he was married to whosis.
I know. I love her. What was that movie was she in?
I think it was the one where she saves the earth from giant rats….
How to remember names
OK, so how DO you remember names?
One method is to give names meaning by making a memorable association in your mind.
For example, you can assign the person a nickname that ties him to a particular trait or event, such as “Red” or “Slim” or “Spilled your beer on me.”
A better solution, I think, is requiring everyone to go through life wearing a name tag.
Still, if you continue to forget names, relax. Apparently it’s normal.
The only time you have to worry is if the name you forget is yours.
What tricks do you use for remembering names?
Image: Rex Roof
Alan Graner (Latin for “brilliant writer”) is Chief Creative Officer at Daly Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. If prospects have difficulty remember your company’s name, email Jeffrey Swartz (Latin for “I’ll make you memorable”) at firstname.lastname@example.org.