Posted by: wordsmithsuk | March 26, 2010

How to remember names


This month I had a query from a newly qualified science teacher in a secondary school who is finding it almost impossible to remember the names of his 300+ pupils. Here is my reply.
First you have to understand that remembering 100s of names would be a massive task for anyone – so you don’t need to feel embarrassed because you are finding this difficult. Although some people do have a fantastic memory without even trying, most of us have to work quite hard to train our memories. You will find it helpful to learn some classic techniques, and to put in a certain amount of practice every day.
In brief, to remember names better, you have to train yourself to make associations when you first meet. Try to think of a picture clue as you are chatting. The picture has to be big, colourful, maybe even surreal. What images does the name suggest? Perhaps you can think of a famous person with that name, an event in history or a job role.
If you meet someone called Donna Kornfeldt for example, you could imagine Madonna eating an enormous doner kebab sitting in a cornfield. Use as many senses as you can and make the image move. You could smell the hot kebab meat, hear Madonna singing and notice the golden corn swaying in the warm breeze. Don’t forget to involve the real person in your picture or you will never remember who it is supposed to represent.
To get the name/face into your long term memory you have to keep reviewing your image and the name. In your situation I would do a Mind Map or make some form of picture notes that I could quickly review. You would have to do this as soon as possible after first trying to memorise the name. It will be quite hard to remember all 300 names in one go, but you could easily memorise say 20 every week.
This technique may sound mad but it’s actually good fun and very satisfying to achieve something that has been so difficult in the past. Once you have started to use your mind in this way, making the picture clues gets quicker and your memory starts to work better.
This is a very brief overview, but I hope it helps. You could help yourself a bit more by reading books on the subject. Not sure if you’ve got my audio book ‘Memory and Learning for Success’ – but if not that would certainly give you more ideas.

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