What was their name?

5 Sep 2013

It’s right on the tip of your tongue. You can see their face; remember everything about them but the one thing you really need remember at that moment; their name. This is not an uncommon phenomenon and something that may happen to you frequently. Thankfully, these troublesome (and sometimes embarrassing) episodes are easily resolved.

If someone introduced themselves to you as James Bond it’s not likely to be a name you'll forget in a hurry. It’s a name that carries with it a whole plethora of associations. This means that when you try to recall their name, it’s easy to do so using imagery, memories, emotions and opinions connected to it. Unfortunately, not everyone has a name as memorable as James Bond.

By using a bit of creativity, every name, no matter how mundane or complicated can be made into something memorable.

The first tool to use is the Baker/baker paradox. This states that if someone were to tell you their name is Baker, you are less likely to remember it than if that person were to say that they earn their living as a baker. When someone tells you they are a baker you imagine all the things that bakers do, perhaps the flour covered aprons and the smell of fresh bread. If you change all Bakers to bakers you are more likely to remember them. This process takes something that is inherently non-memorable and makes it memorable with the help of a little creativity.

Some names are far too unique for that approach, but fear not. When a name is just on the tip of the tongue all it needs is a small reminder of their name and it’s right there. Turning a name into something that is slightly different but more memorable is a great tool to use. For example, my rather un-memorable name is Jake O’Gorman. By using a bit of creative license it could easily be turned into Joke O’Gormless. You can imagine me trying to explain a joke but doing so very badly due to the want of more intelligence. Someone with the surname of Patel could be imagined holding a giant Petal. Jones could be imagined being serenaded by Billy Paul with ‘Me and Mrs Jones’.

One of the most important factors to remember is that ‘the art of memory’, is ‘the art of attention’. If you want to remember something such as a name, a concept, a to-do list, then the most important thing is to spend a moment paying attention and then turn it into something memorable, no matter how abstract.

Happy memorizing.

Joke O’Gormless

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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