Monday, December 3, 2012


By Kate Collins

Confession time: I’m horrible at remembering names. If we were introduced, there’s a 90% chance I forgot your name thirty seconds after I heard it, and it has nothing to do with you not being memorable. Actually, I’m not sure how it happens. I think I concentrate on what the person is saying to me instead of playing the name game. “This is Jane. Jane is plain. Plain Jane will now remain in my brain.”  Or something in that vein.

Okay, now I’m stuck on rhymes. Excuse me while I clear my head.

Anyway, at the elementary school where I taught, we had different classes for homeroom, reading and math, which meant I had to memorize up to ninety names each year. And I did it with no problem. In fact, by day four, I could take attendance and know exactly who was who.

Obviously, as with muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it. This was brought home to me yesterday at church, when a very nice woman introduced herself and then apologized for not remembering my name. She said she was terrible at remembering names and we laughed at our shared handicap. Luckily, she was wearing a name tag, because I’d already forgotten hers. How embarrassing.

Do you have a different trick or technique that you use that might help me?


  1. Unfortunately, I cannot help you. It has happened that I had a collegue for 2 years, and still could not remember her name. Especially if 2 new ones who look a little bit alike, start on the same day.
    I have no idea how to make my self remember names. So any help is welcome.
    I see people on the street, and I think: hmm I know her, but from where?

  2. If my husband is with me, and someone approaches he knows what to do, " Hi Jane, how are you"
    If am alone there is trouble. If you figure out how to do this ,please share!

  3. As a pastor's wife, I need to learn a lot of new names fast when we move to a new church. If I use that person's name out loud a minimum of three times when we first meet, that usually does it. Well, Shirley, it's nice to meet you....Thanks for the nice welcome, Shirley....It was so nice meeting you, Shirley. Of course, it's better if you don't say them one right after the other...then you'd get looks!

  4. I share your pain. Someone told me that if you repeat the name just as soon as you hear it, you're more likely to remember it. The older I get, the worse my memory for names is but I also forget to put this tip to use quite often. When I do say, "How nice to meet you, Jane," it works. If only I could remember names as well as I do faces. :(

  5. I'm not really good at remembering them either. You're not alone.

  6. I've heard of the trick of repeating the name 3 times. By the time i go to respond to the person, though, I've already forgotten it. Shameful!

    My husband was an attorney, and when a former client came up to him and acted as though he should know his/her name, I would quickly offer my hand and give my name, and the person would then volunteer his/hers, saving my husband embarrassment. Wish there was a way to do it alone.

  7. If I can write it down, I can remember it. I had been living away from my home town over 20 years when my dad passed away. At my dad's funeral (in1995), I stayed close to my younger brother. He would greet people by name, and then I could, too.

  8. I am laughing at memories of my sweet dad who, like you, would come up with associations to remember things. I have to share one but must explain first: Rosen's was a deli in Chicago that made the best and very popular rye bread. Ok. So my cousin's fiance oh so many years ago was named Mort Rosen. My dad decided that he'd remember that name by calling the guy "Salty Bread".
    I'm sure you see why. My dad is gone; that cousin's been married to Mort for 50 years and we've never forgotten Salty Bread.
    I guess it can work! Regards...
    Adrienne in MN :-)

  9. If I work with a written name I have an 80%-90% chance of remembering it. If I only hear it I have about a 5% chance of remembering it. So if at all possible, I write it down.

  10. I wish I could help. I feel your pain, believe me. I used to volunteer in a nursing home with 120 residents. I remembered all their names. Then they expanded to 240 residents & I quickly realized that my brain had a limit of 120 names it could remember (in the nursing home, aside from other names of people in my life). Then one day, I was talking to someone. I acted like I knew him, but had no clue. Finally, a few days later, my mom told me one of her co-workers saw me at the nursing home, and then it clicked! I was so embarrassed!