Tips for Remembering People’s Names, even under Brain Fog

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It’s mortifying when you can’t remember people’s names, especially when other people always seem to remember yours.  “Brain fog” caused by chronic fatigue, vitamin B12 deficiency, fibromyalgia, or other chronic illnesses makes it difficult to remember people’s names.

Name forgetfulness can be socially awkward, especially if that person works in your office, or goes to the same daily aerobics class as you.  Here are some helpful tips for remember names and boosting your memory, even when you’re in the middle of a brain drain.

Use it or lose it

As soon as somebody introduces himself, make a concentrated effort to remember his name the first time.  Turn your attention to the person, repeat his name back, and make sure that you heard correctly.  Repeat the name (quietly) to yourself several times. Take every opportunity to introduce your new friend to other people, and use her name while conversing.  Your earliest attempts to remember a name are always the most successful.

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Play Pictionary

Look for distinguishing characteristics in every person you meet, and link them with the person’s name.  It’s okay to let your imagination run wild this this one- Lenny from Human Resources need never know that you think he looks like a lion cub.  Another good association is connecting names with hobbies or occupations, like Arthur the Attorney, or Daphne who likes dolphins.

Put it in the dictionary

Sometimes, it’s easier to remember somebody’s name if you associate it with a real word that’s in the dictionary.  For example, Justin’s name will be easier to remember if you think of justice, or “just in time.”

Play the spelling bee

Some people are visual learners- they need to see something in their mind in order to absorb its meaning.  When you are introduced to somebody new, spell her name out (to yourself).  This will further establish her name in your memory.

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Make it rhyme

Rhymes have been used for centuries to remember things like instructions, moral codes, and historical facts.  Today, they’re effective for remembering names, which is helpful if your job requires you to meet new people every day.  Some good rhymes are “Tracy shops at Macy’s,” or “Ellen eats melon.” It doesn’t have to be a perfect rhyme, just as long as it sticks in your memory.

Forget remembering

Have you ever written a “cheat sheet” before a test in high school, only to find out during class that you didn’t even need it?  Writing down important details cements them in your mind.  So, why not follow a scaled-down version of that practice?  Keep a small notepad in your purse or messenger bag, and jot down people’s names before you can forget them.  Not only will you be more likely to remember their names the next time your meet, but you’ll have a handy book of names to refer to later.

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Don’t be afraid to ask

Despite your best efforts to seal somebody’s name in your memory, you will still have moments when you just can’t remember somebody’s name.  Instead of calling them “Hey you” or “What’s-your-name,” just come out and ask.  People would rather be asked to repeat their names- it tells them that they are important and worthy of your attention.

Think fast!

“Oh no, here she comes, and I don’t remember her name!” Don’t panic. If you’re standing next to somebody you know, casually initiate an introduction. “Hey Dan, have you two met?”  More often than not, she will probably pipe up with her name in introduction, and you’re home free.

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When have we met before?

This isn’t just a good pick-up line; it’s also a great way to remember somebody’s name.  Sometimes, we associate names of people with places.  You may not recall Shawn’s name, but you probably remember that you spent three hours with him while waiting in line at the DMV.

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