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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

My 5-step method to remembering names

Jul 02, 2024 04:10PM ● By Amy Laundrie

“Charles, it’s your serve, right?” I asked my tennis opponent.

He looked around, confused.

“Charles?” I repeated.

“Who’s Charles?” he asked.

I’d done it again. My writer’s brain names people as if they were characters in one of my manuscripts. My dignified opponent, whose actual name is George, was a perfect Charles in my mind.

I took some well-deserved ribbing from him and the other players. Calling a person by the wrong name embarrasses me, and makes the misnamed person feel unimportant. A light-hearted apology, like, “Sorry; it’s been a long day,” often smooths things over. This time, I shared how I assign nicknames in my mind, which occasionally slip out.

Later that day, I laced up my tennis shoes and took a walk, pondering the impact of nicknames, both flattering and otherwise. 

I was born an Emily, but my aunt began calling me Amy during my toddler years. It stuck and I eventually had it legally changed. 

My baseball-loving father called me Slugger, which I liked. When a fellow tennis player gave me the nickname Flash a few years ago, I wanted to dash across the court to  prove I deserved that name. 

However, I’ve had my share of nicknames I didn’t like, like Olive Oyl. The image of Popeye’s absent-minded, shapeless sweetheart with big feet did little to boost my ego. 

By the end of my walk, I vowed to do a better job at remembering names. I researched various websites and compiled the best tips into a reliable five-step method:

1. Avoid negative self-talk

Claiming we’re bad at remembering names becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2. Repeat and visualize

When introduced to someone, repeat their name out loud. If it’s an unusual name, ask for the spelling to visualize it better. Use it soon after in conversation, like, “It’s nice to meet you, George.”

3. Create a vivid association

Make the memory stick by linking their name with a vivid image and emotions. For instance, when meeting George, I imagined him as George Washington on his deathbed, making his final poignant statement, “’Tis well.”

4. Say their name again before parting

For example, “Take care of yourself, George.” This reinforces the memory.

5. Be honest if you forget

If you meet again and the name slips your mind, just admit it and ask again. You can ease into it by saying, “I’m Amy, and you are...?” which usually prompts them to fill in the blank.

 Using people’s names improves relationships. So the next time I see George, I’ll take a moment to think before calling him by name. And if I do slip up, I’ll apologize and explain that I tend to be absent-minded like Popeye’s scatter-brained girlfriend. 

 I might even suggest that if he wants to even things up, he can call me Olive Oyl.

 And if he’s anything like our founding father, George will nod and say, “’Tis well.” 

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