How to Remember People's Names

Want to stand out? Remember someone's name. But usual tactics for remembering facts don’t quite work when connecting names to faces. With some help from memory expert Jonathan Levi, here's how to remember names and make them stick.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #434

There are three easy tricks to remembering someone's name: activate your visual memory, relate it to something you know, and make that memory thrilling or unusual. Keep reading for more tips.

I once went to church with a friend of mine. He introduced me to his pastor. Then we went back again, about ten years later. We walked in the door, the pastor took one look at me, and said, “Hi, Stever! I hope all is well with you.” Mind. Blown. When someone remembers your name ten years later, they have obviously proven themselves a person of discriminating taste and high expertise. So if you want to make that impression, there’s no better way to do it than master the art of remembering people’s names.

And there’s no better way to learn to memorize than to turn to a master. That’s why today’s episode is based on an interview with memory expert Jonathan Levi. You can visit GetItDoneGuy.com/remember to learn more, but for now, I’ll try to give you the rundown.

I’ll start with what you already know: remembering people’s names is a simple act that can do a ton of good for new relationships. But when we’re meeting people, names often go in one ear and out the other. If we want to remember names from introductions, we need a better plan than just hoping for the best. Jonathan Levi says we need to stop and engage our memory based on how it evolved to work.

Activate Your Visual Memory

My human brain is so incredible and awesome that when I meet a new person, I’m able to remember their face and body language for years. Yet I’m also able to forget their name mere seconds after they introduce themselves. This is because handling images took center stage for tens of thousands of years of human evolution. So the average human is far more likely to remember images than sound. Or smell. Or taste. Or pretty much any other type of information, for that matter. 

Take words, for example. Words are great! They are the building blocks of modern thought and human interaction! Without them, Facebook and Twitter would be out of business. But at an evolutionary level, our brains are still learning to deal with language. A name is a word, so to remember words, we must turn to imagery.

When you meet somebody whose name you want to remember, make a picture of them in a scenario related to their name. When you meet Nick, make a mental image of Nick nicking himself while shaving. When you meet Sandy, make an image of Sandy on the beach, building a sand-castle. And as for Pandora, imagine her hanging out next to a statue of Pan, your favorite Greek demigod, with you old friend Dora.

Relate the Name to Something You Already Know

Connect your new knowledge to something that’s already in your minds. Your brain needs a path to the new information, and that path is via old information. 


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.