Remembering Names

Remembering names can be an important initial step in developing good human relations. It is a subtle compliment that shows that you care about this new person in your life. This can have positive affects in nearly every aspect of life. This skill can come in especially handy in fellowshiping efforts for investigators and new members. How great it would be to meet an investigator that the missionaries bring to church one week, and to remember their names the next week – or during the week if you run into them at the grocery store or something.

Unfortunately, many people feel that they are terrible with names. It is common to hear someone say this. But anyone with a desire to remember names can greatly improve their abilities in this area by using a few simple techniques.

I was able to go through the Dale Carnegie course about a year ago, and am now serving as a graduate assistant in the same course. This allows me to get a necessary follow up in the principles I learned, and to maybe be of help to somebody else. Remembering names is a significant topic of the first session of this course. I would like to pass on a summary of some of the techniques taught in this course, and hope you find them useful.

So, here goes. The main categories are impression, repetition, and association.


The Name itself. Listen closely, and make sure you hear the name clearly and completely. So often we may miss the name because it is said so fast. Ask for the name again if you do not get it at first. Ask for them to spell it if necessary. Write it down if possible. This will show them how important their name is to you, and help you remember it.

The Person. What about the person impresses you? Their face? Their size? Their voice? Find something unique about the person. Think about this thing as you remember the name and link this image with the name.

Desire to Remember. Remembering names requires some effort and concentration. Take some responsibility for remembering this name.


Use the name immediately. This is important and very easy to do. When you first meet the person and find out their name, work the name into the conversation. ‘What do you do, Tom?’, ‘Where do you live, Mary?’, ‘Do you have an children Mr. Jones?’ are ways of doing this.

Use it often. Use the name in conversations with them, and about them. The more you use the name the better.

Repeat and review it silently. As you walk away think, ‘Paul Hamilton, Paul Hamilton, Paul Hamilton’ several times.

Review the name or names later in the day to refresh your memory.


Find something to associate with the name. Some areas for association might be:

Business. Is their something about their job that can be associated with the name? Like Mr. Carpenter is in the construction business, or Bill is in purchasing.

Rhyme. Is there a rhyme to their name that will help? (You may not want to share some of these associations – but whatever helps).

Appearance. Does something about their appearance make an association with their name? Like Mrs. Small is very short.

Meaning. You may know the meaning of a name and use this to associate it with the person.

Mental picture. Create a mental picture that can help you remember the name. If you wanted to remember my name you might picture me in a Viking helmet and kneeling on a small boy. Eric is kind of a Viking name, and I have four boys. Eric Nielson. Get it?

Similar name. Maybe you know someone else with a similar name that reminds you of this person.

Well, that is about it. Try a couple of these that make sense to you the next time you meet someone, and see if you are not more successful in remembering their name.

3 Responses to “Remembering Names”

  1. 1 Naiah January 31, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    One idea that i always try to get people to tack on after stuff about remembering names is the value of being earnest and sincere when you have forgotten a name. People can tell when you’re fudging it, and I have found that they find ti very refreshing when you’re just honest that you really wanted to remember it, and woudl still like to know it, but have just forgotten it. People appreciate that honesty, and you can still convey to them in the moment that thay ar eimportant to you.

    Names are important; they are the abstract linguistic representations of our selves. We build up this cultural idea, though, that it is rude to forget a name, and it really isn’t. While names are important and worthy of respect, the person is, too–even moreso. So, if these techniques fail you in a moment, go ahead and just say to the person that their name is important to you, and that as much as you;d like to know it, it has slipped your mind. Said with a big smile, such honesty builds the very same bridges of trust that the actual use of the name does, if not even moreso.

  2. 2 bkb May 20, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    I had a professor who used to say in accent as he tried to learn our names, “That people are important.” He felt learning our names signified that. I felt such warmth in his statement and such a sincere heart. I’m not the best with names. Thanks for the reminder on a the importance. While I am here, I thought I would invite you to an LDS forum/blog that recently opened again. If you would like to participate, let Helaman know. The forum/blog is at We are looking for people who like to blog on LDS themes. There is no committment of so many posts or such. It is a nice place. I think you have posted on group blogs before. Your voice would be welcome there.

  3. 3 Eric Nielson May 21, 2008 at 7:02 am

    Thanks bkb. Your professor sounds like a nice person.

    I will check out the blog you suggest.

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