4 Steps to Help You Never forget… What’s ‘er Name!

I am terrible at remembering names.  I will often forget a name within seconds of being introduced to someone. I have come to believe that this is an unforgivable fault, easily corrected by caring enough to make the effort to remember.

how to remember names

Thanks to this common food, I’ll never forget Frank’s name.

SO I have developed a little formula that works for me.  It doesn’t come naturally and requires some concentration.  But people care about their names and appreciate those who care enough to remember.   Try this formula and see if it helps you remember names.

Next time you meet someone, take these steps to remember their name:

1. Look

When you are introduced to someone look at them.

Take note of their face and any unusual or outstanding features.  Deep blue eyes.  A mole. Smile lines.

2. Listen

Even if they tell you their name, ask them to repeat it. Maybe even spell it.  Listen to the name and connect it to the face.

3. Speak

Use their name.  Tell me Larry, what do you do for a living?  How long have you lived here, Larry?

When you leave, shake their hand and use their name one last time.  “It’s a pleasure to have met you, Penelope.”

If you really want to remember names for a long time. Or if you are in situations where you meet many people at once and want to remember their names try this last step.

4.  Visualize

This technique takes you the extra mile.  I once memorized the names of several hundred students at a camp using it.

Create a unique visual picture to  connect a person’s name to that outstanding feature you noticed when you looked at their face.

For example you meet Frank and notice that Frank wears a  pair of large glasses with heavy black rims.  Momentarily picture a sizzling “Frank / Wiener”  lying across the top of his glasses.  You only have to vividly make the picture for a second then you can forget it.  Next time you see Frank you will see the sizzling frank on his glasses and be able to call him by name.

Be careful that you don’t call Frank, Wiener, hotdog or Hormel.

You are introduced to a girl named Irene, which sounds a little like the word “iron.”  Irene has a distinctive beauty mark above her lip.  Instantly you picture an iron hanging by it’s cord from the beauty mark.  The more ridiculous the visualization the more firmly the image will be in your brain and the longer you will remember the name.

Because of the concentration this requires it makes you seem very interested in people.   That’s because YOU ARE interested enough to make the effort.

None of this is offensive unless you point out the distinctive features and your visual images.  But forgetting a name is offensive.

Ahead of time I have created and memorized a list of images for dozens of common names so that I don’t have to make one up on the spot.

Irene =  iron

Tom   =  cat

Bill     =  dollar bill

Sam  =  Uncle Sam

Sally  =  Salad

Now that you get the idea try it on these:

Rod =  ?

Melanie =  ?

Jennifer = ?

Shannon = ?

Karl = ?

This is work, but it works.

For those of you who know my forgetfulness. This next story will seem like a miracle.

Not long ago I met a man I hadn’t seen for 20 years.  His name was Wylie James, I was able to walk right up to him and say, “Wylie James, I’m Ken Davis.  How long has it been since we have seen each other?  He was astounded and pleased that I remembered him.  I said nothing to him about the fact that his unusually bushy eyebrows were being consumed in “Wild Flames.”

[reminder] What formula do you use to remember names? Try the one above and let me know how it works. [/reminder]


  1. This is great Ken. It really does set you apart when you are able to remember someone’s name. This is certainly talked about in the book, “How to win friends and influence people” so I know it is true in making an impression. Thanks for the reminder to take the time to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

  2. I’m so bad at remembering names that sometimes I have to ask, ” Could you please uncover your name tag so I know who I’m talking to?” this becomes really embarrassing when I’m talking to my primary care physician, my son, or my wife Cheryl, oops, Cindy.

  3. I have the same problem and it became a continual joke with people that I either called them by their wrong name or forgot their name altogether. A friend had told me about the rhyming name game and I do that with the visualization. For Roseanne I picture the rhyme scan and then visualize Roseanne scanning a pile of mile high documents. For Nancy I think, Fancy Nancy, and imagine her with a tiara… so the name rhyme so far has worked, but fortunately I havent met anyone with a name like Methusalah

    1. Well, I have news for you, PSS. There is a podiatrist in Irmo South Carolina named Dr. Methusalah, and everybody remembers his name — even though is not nearly as old as . . . you get the point.

      1. But fortunately my podiatrist is named Dr. Shapiro, who cant count past a zero.

  4. I also struggle with remembering names. I will be putting this to use.

    I try to help the other person by telling them my name again the 2nd or 3rd time we meet. I assume upfront they will not remember. Now, I just wish they would do that for me.

  5. As a child my mother would inevitably go through all our
    names and then some before she got to the right name. I swore to me self that I’d
    NEVER do that. Now I NEVER have that problem, I can remember everyone’s name, especially
    yours Tom. BTW Bill I always look forward to your blog, I love a good laugh.

  6. I try to speak their name often in the conversation. It helps to make the name stick and to show the person you know who they are.

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