Nancy and I have a friend who knows no strangers. She has a knack for starting a conversation with a stranger and building rapport. Then, more importantly, she remembers their names and what they told her. I’ve watched and I can tell she makes a positive impression on the people she meets.

I, on the other hand, rarely strike up and conversation with a stranger and I struggle to remember names.

I recognize my weakness and I am on the 12 step active listening program working to do better. Years ago I practiced remembering names each week in church when we were asked to greet someone sitting near us. Even though I really tried, when I returned to church the following week and sat near the same people, I rarely remembered their names.

More recently, I type the names in the Notes on my iPhone. Over time, having this crutch helps me remember the names of our fellow church members.

Several years ago I was a speaker at a contractors association annual meeting. One of the other speakers was a Canadian named Bob Gray. He taught the audience how to remember names and some other facts. Here is what I got from his program:

  • Ask if you did not hear the name
  • Use the name in the conversation as often as you appropriately can
  • Picture the name on the person’s forehead
  • Associate the name to something else. The more exaggerated the something else is the better. I am not so good at the exaggerated something else so I usually tie it to a famous sports or entertainment figure
  • Use alliteration techniques like “Sassy” Sally “Cocky” Kevin
  • End the conversation using the person’s name
  • Remember the name an hour, a day and a week later

I recently learned for the first time that there are Apps to help remember names. I read 8 APPS TO HELP YOU REMEMBER PEOPLE’S NAMES. I may have to try one of them to see if it helps me.



  • Cindy

    In addition to ending with the person’s name, use it in the conversation. We all love to hear our name and sying it it helps keep it in your mind. Also, as Cordell notes, you have to really listen up front or you will miss the name from the start. Really listening means shutting off all of the talk that is going on in your head….your worries about what you will say next, what impression you will make, whether there is something stuck between your teeth, etc. and just settling in to really be still and listen to this person you are with. There is no better way to truly connect.