Defeating the Name Ninja: Top tips to help you remember names

Do you have trouble remembering names? You’re not alone. Whether it’s recalling the names of colleagues, clients or even acquaintances, retrieving name data can be a real problem for some, including me. I call it the Name Ninja - a little cretin who infiltrates my brain to obliterate names as soon as they enter my ear canal.

Of course, there are some people who have serious name game, including ex chief executive of Meridian Business Support who remembered the names of 360 of his staff, and my four-year-old daughter whose memory constantly puts me to shame.

When it comes to meeting new people in business, remembering a person’s name is not only a sign of respect, but a basic need. With this in mind, can the brain be trained to annihilate the Name Ninja, Bruce Lee style, and retain this valid information? I’m still working on it, but here are some of things I do to help remember names when it matters the most:

Don’t make excuses

You don’t have to give in to the Name Ninja. I’ve heard so many people blame their failure to remember names on a bad memory. However, you can remember names if you really want to - it just requires effort. Instead of accepting that you’re never going to remember names before heading into a meeting or social gathering, make a mental note that you’re going to put in the effort to remember the names of everyone you meet. This simple shift in attitude goes a long way in helping you remember names.

John, John, John

There’s no doubt that repetition helps engrave a name in your memory. Repeating a person’s name both in your head and out loud as often as possible after you’ve been introduced can keep the Name Ninja at bay. This might sound a bit over-the-top, but people rarely recoil at the use of their name, plus they’d rather you remember their name than not at all. At the very least aim to use their name immediately and when leaving. It might also help to write it down with a description of the person afterwards too.

Word association

This is an old trick that’s still extremely effective. It involves making an association between a person’s appearance and an image that the name itself conjures up in your brain. Even if you struggle to create an image to accompany the name, you’ll still have reinforced the name into your memory by simply attempting this exercise. If sounds are more memorable, try making a rhyme using the name or linking it to a song lyric.

Don’t be afraid to ask...again

Although it might seem embarrassing, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat his or her name if you forget. Using a compliment can help make you feel more comfortable and soften the blow that you’ve forgotten their name. For example, “It’s been so great talking to you and I’ve totally forgotten your name!” If the Name Ninja strikes seconds after an introduction, don’t hesitate to say, “I’m sorry, I missed your name.”

These tips and tricks take time and commitment, but remembering someone’s name makes them feel important and valued, which in turn helps to win you their good will. So, banish that Name Ninja for good and start building meaningful business relationships. My name is Jo, make sure you don’t forget it.