How Do I Remember Names?

Benjamin Franklin sings Bob Seger.

How do I remember names? The number one recall question I have been asked over the years.

I have said many times that memory techniques are based on linking or associating what we wish to remember, to something we already know. This is why we recall the shape of Italy as opposed to Outer Mongolia.

This past weekend I spoke at a retreat and was asked to show how to recall names.  Along with my standard system, I introduced a powerful technique which I have used for many years.  I will attempt to share it with you now.

Whenever I meet someone, I immediately ask myself if they remind me of anyone I know, either someone famous or someone I know, or knew from my past.  Once I have this person, I then immediately think of a location, and or an action, associated with that famous person (or person I know).

So if I meet someone who reminds me of say, Beyoncé, I would immediately think of a stage (location) and or, someone dancing/singing in a skimpy outfit (action). I now take this persons name (the person I’ve just met), and I now think of another famous person, (or someone I know) who shares that name.  I then see this second person performing the action, or in the location, of the original (famous) person. Ok, ok, sounds confusing I know. So let me share with you the example I used this past weekend.

One of the attendees in the group I was presenting to was named Benjamin, Benjamin looked like Tom Cruise.  So I thought of an action, and or location, associated with Tom Cruise, now this is subjective and there is no right or wrong here….I thought of the scene from Risky Business where Tom Cruise slides across the floor in his socks holding a candlestick holder as a microphone and miming Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock & Roll. That is both an action and a location. (You may think of Tom Cruise hanging from a wire in Mission Impossible).

Now all I did was to place someone I know named Benjamin, in that scene….so I used Benjamin Franklin.  It is SO powerful.

So this is how our brain figures this out.  I’m introduced to Benjamin, I think he looks like Tom Cruise, I am reminded of that scene, I imagine Benjamin Franklin sliding across the floor.  The next time I meet Benjamin, that whole process will take a fraction of a second to process, and I will recall his name immediately.  You may have an uncle named Benjamin; your uncle sliding across the floor would work just as well.

Now the skill set here is not to wait until you meet someone who looks the spitting image of someone famous or someone you know, that rarely happens, but you can still capitalize on this incredible name association technique.

You need to get to the stage where you can look at someone and immediately, indiscriminately and without reservation, think of someone they remind you of, it can be the smallest of things, it might just be the color or shape of their hair, the sound of their voice, their height or weight, it doesn’t matter; the first person that comes to mind will work.

Try it the next time you ride a bus or subway, look at people and see if you can think of someone they remind you of.  It’s a skill set well worth the time investment.

Funny, unique and interactive in his entertaining conference keynotes and workshops, Bob Gray reveals the untapped potential in each of us. His empowering systems and their many applications in the business world give participants immediate ‘walk away’ value. Book Bob Gray today as your next conference keynote speaker.  Watch Bob in action.


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