Tricking Your Brain to Remember Names


Does this ever happen to you? You are at a networking or social event and you are introduced to somebody but as soon as their name is spoken it disappears from your memory, never even seeming to enter your mind. You think you are doing everything right:  firm handshake (but not too firm), direct eye contact, and a welcoming, congenial smile. You even see the other person’s lips moving so you’re certain they just spoke their name. But you have nothing!

Now you are stuck with a dilemma. This may be an important person for your networking, someone with whom you really want to make a connection. They may still be standing right in front of you, but you have no recollection of their name.  Now you must figure out a way to get their name again. Do you ask them again? How? When?  It could be quite embarrassing as it was only seconds or a few minutes earlier that they were introduced.

Here is a little tip that has proven to prevent this situation from occurring. It comes from a man named Ron White , a two-time US memory champion.

That feeling that the name never entered our minds is, unfortunately,  accurate.  The brain, which is literally bombarded with millions of facts, observations and stimuli on a daily basis, is actually hardwired to not notice every bit of surrounding information. It literally filters out most of what it observes so as to only let in what is needed. However, at times, important things might get blocked out by this automatic process, such as in the case of introductions.  This filtering is even more pronounced during periods of stress such as—you guessed it— at networking events.

Focus is the filter that the brain uses to determine which observations or facts make it to the part of our brain responsible for memory. Simply put, we are far more likely to recall what we focus on; focus prepares our brains to receive specific input. So the way to override this automatic forgetting or ignoring is to train our brains to focus on the specific input we want it to receive. If we learn to focus our minds on names when we enter an event we create a powerful expectation for our brains.

Try this. When you enter a networking event or a party, repeat to yourself over and over something like “I want to remember names. I want to remember names.” Or if you see that you are about to be introduced to someone, or are introducing yourself to someone, quickly learn to repeat to yourself a few times “What is your name? – What is your name? – What is your name?” and notice that the name sticks right away. It seems like magic, but all we have actually done is prepare the brain with the expectation of receiving specific information, so it can focus on this particular input and override the automatic filter.

Remember to try it a few times, even if it seems weird at first. It quickly becomes a very useful habit.