How to Remember Someone’s Name

May 1, 2016
photo credit: bangkok via photopin (license)

photo credit: bangkok via photopin (license)

In our continually disconnected culture, we stand an increased chance of not knowing the people who live and work around us. Often when we do meet someone for the first time, we are so distracted that we can struggle to remember his name five minutes later. Then when we see the person three weeks or a month later we spend the entire conversation trying to remember who he is.

For followers of Jesus we want to love our neighbors as ourselves, and this begins with learning their name when you meet them. Therefore, we want to give attention to learning the names of people we meet as an extension of our living on Jesus’ mission in this world.

Here are three steps you can take if you struggle to remember the names of people you meet.

Say His Name

We have all had the experience of meeting someone, talking to them for two minutes, and not knowing their name when they walk away. When you meet someone for the first time, try to use their name three times when you are talking to them.

Don’t do this in an awkward way by saying “Nice to meet you Steve, Steve, Steve.” Instead make using their name as part of the natural conversation. “Nice to meet you, Steve.” “Steve, what kind of work do you do?” Have you lived here in the area long, Steve?”

By using a person’s name you are engaging more of your senses and mental faculties. If you hear their name but don’t say it, you are less likely to remember it. By saying their name multiple times, and working to remember it in the first casual conversation you have a greater chance of remembering it in the future.

Write His Name

You meet a person and have a good conversation with him. You don’t see the person for three or four weeks and run into them in the grocery store. Then the dialogue begins in your head, “oh I met this guy a while back. What was his name again? We had a mutual friend and I cannot remember who it is.” This creates an awkward conversation, but there is a step you can take ahead of time to head this off.

When you meet someone new and believe you will see them around again, write down their name. You can do this with a Moleskine Journal, Field Notes, or in an Evernote file, but write it down. Write down the date, their name, and where you met. Also write down anything you remember about them or the conversation you had. Did they tell you where they grew up, what they do for a living, how many children they have or any mutual friends you may have?

Writing down the people you meet gives you another way of remembering. This causes you to engage more senses and and utilize more brainpower, plus it provides you with even more repetition. Also, writing down their name gives you an avenue for remembering their name that does not depend on your memory alone. If we do this for to do lists and grocery lists, then shouldn’t we do it for people as well?

Review His Name

As with anything in life, we learn things most clearly with repetition. This can be especially true of remembering the name of people you meet. If knowing and remember the people we meet matters, we will give ourselves over to this as well.

Once a week take some time and go through the list of people you recently met. Read through the list and try to picture the people and remember the conversations. Pray for any needs you the person may have mentioned and ask the Lord to give you more opportunities with them in the future.

This may seem like a lot to go through, but when you see someone you have only met a couple of times and call them by their name it makes an impression. It tells them they matter and that you took note of them. In the grand scheme of things it seems like such a small thing, but it can be a powerful way to love your neighbor.

Related Posts:
Recovering the Family Dinner Table

For Further Reading:
The Vanishing Neighbor by Mark Dunkelman

The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon and Jay Pathak

Scott Slayton

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Scott Slayton is the Lead Pastor at Chelsea Village Baptist Church in Chelsea, AL. He and Beth have been married since 2003 and have four children.

6 responses to How to Remember Someone’s Name

  1. Great advice. Every week after church I try and remember the new people I met, and your suggestions will definitely help. Thanks!

  2. Troy Maragos May 2, 2016 at 8:48 AM

    Great post! I always try to associate the person’s name with another person I know with the same name or perhaps a famous person. Works well for me! Apparently, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a savant at this. His trick? He would imagine the person’s name as if it was written right across their forehead!

  3. Writing it is the key for me, because it aids the other two suggestions. I immediately add it to the “Names” category in my app. In doing so I have to repeat the name, then I can reference it the next time I’m going to wherever I met them (i.e., church, the gym, etc.). I even tell them what I’m doing, as everyone is sympathetic to the challenge of remember names, and it shows that I am interested in remembering them.

  4. Good practical suggestions. I would add, pray for memory power. Write down their names and pray for them regularly. Save their contact info and scroll through your contact list and trying putting the faces to the name list.

  5. It won’t work for me. I don’t remember names OR faces. In my job, I see around 300 clients a year – most of which, I’ll never see again, however many of them I’ll see out and about in my community. It frequently happens – someone sees me, and says “Hey Mr. _______.” I don’t even remember, because I can’t remember names or faces. If I completely do not recognize them, I do know where I probably met them – my job.” It’s much easier to just say, “I’m sorry, tell me your name?” They tell me. “And how long ago did I see you at _________?” This way, they at least don’t feel I have no clue on the planet who they are, when that’s actually the case.

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