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Instant Likability by Remembering Names

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

Remembering someone’s name earns you instant likability. If I meet a person for the first time and they demonstrate that they’ve mastered my name after only one encounter, I immediately think, “That’s a present, focused, thoughtful individual. This person must have a high emotional quotient (EQ)” Why do I feel this way? Because it’s typically true.

Remembering Names Takes Energy and Intentionality

Remembering one’s name is no easy feat. Especially if you are meeting multiple people at once. It takes deliberate, focused attention to do so. That energy-hog, your prefrontal cortex, must be consciously activated telling yourself, “I will make every effort to remember this person’s name.” It can feel a bit draining at first, but that bit of energy will undoubtedly pay off as you begin to cultivate your new relationship.

As a case in point, let’s take a look at an encounter I had last week. My gym routine had grown a bit stale so I decided to switch things up by joining a kickboxing class. On my first day, I entered a room of 8 or 9 people and introduced myself. After surviving 50 grueling minutes of being teamed up with a clone of Ivan Drago himself, I was feeling pretty good to have survived my first class.

As I was leaving, the guy behind me said, “That was one heck of a class Kyle. What’d you think?” He had remembered my name. A bit abashed I realized that I had already forgotten his, but knew that I immediately liked this guy. He had made a point to remember my name even after a fairly generic introduction to a room of people. Impressive to say the least.

The following week, he used my name again. Sheepishly, I walked up to this gentleman and explained that I had forgotten his name after meeting so many people in last week’s class.

Really, the only excuse was my lack of intentionality during our introduction.

How to Remember Names:

Given that I don’t fancy myself the best at remembering names, I decided to do some research on the topic to see what tips are available for cultivating this high-performance habit. In doing so, I came across a book called Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley which has a chapter specifically on this topic. [1]

Short-term & Long-term Memory + Picture:

Mr. Horsley offers some great tips on how to remember one’s name. My favorite is the concept of accessing your “long-term memory” and coupling this with “short-term memory” to create “medium-term memory.” When you do this and link it with a vivid picture in your mind, you can remember almost anything.

For instance, the gentleman’s name at the gym is Todd. I just happen to share an office with a “Todd” as well. In order to remember gym Todd’s name, I can access my long-term memory of Todd from work. I do this by picturing work Todd in my mind. Then I take an additional step and create a new picture of work Todd with two heads, with the new head being that of Todd from the gym. Long-term and short-term memory combined in a vivid picture to create medium-term memory.

In order to convert medium-term memory into long-term memory, I simply revisit this picture in my mind over the coming days and wallah!, gym Todd never to be forgotten again!

Picture + Physical Feature:

Another method touted by memory masters involves creating a vivid picture and tagging it to a distinct physical feature of a person. This method seems to work well, especially for visual learners.

For instance, whenever you meet a "Sandy" you can think of a picture of a sandy beach. Since Sandy happens to have big ears, picture this sandy beach flowing out of her ears. For Rory, think of a lion roaring. Since Rory happens to have long hair, you can picture this as his lion’s mane. You get the drift. I’ll let you think of your own method for remembering Mr. Horsley.

There you have it. Instant likability by remembering names!

How about you? Do you have any tips for remembering a person’s name? How do you feel when someone you first meet remembers your name?


[1] Horsley, K. (2013). Unlimited Memory.


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