Friday, 11 November 2011

A Useful Method to Remember Names

After my recent post about faces, I seem to have touched a nerve. However, it appears that people have more trouble remembering the names to attach to faces than they do remembering if they have seen the face before. I would therefore like to share with you a peculiar method I stumbled upon, which is probably very common, but which I developed out of sheer necessity some years ago: Mnemonics.

"Well", I hear some of you say "This is not new!" and indeed that may be so, but given the number of those who confess to being "terrible at remembering names" I feel it may be of use for me to articulate just how I personally employ this technique (and it may well be that this only works for my own peculiar brain-architecture, in which case, you will have to find you own method, but at least this may be a start).

It first came to me that it was most frustrating to not be able to have a name to put to a face when I was discussing, of all things, Tetley tea adverts in the 1980s. I could not remember the name of the character who did the staunchly Yorkshire voiceover for the Tetley Tea folk. I cannot remember why I particularly needed this name at that time, but having no internet to refer to then, I just had to wait till he came on the telly, acting in something and then examine the credits. This was difficult without freeze frame as we had no video yet.
And so, I discovered he was called Brian Glover (now sadly deceased). So, to remind myself of this, I imagined an enormous sheepskin mitten being slid over his shiny domed pate, him being not at all crowned with any hair. And it stuck. To this day, I remember his name.

When I started dancing, many years ago now, the format of the class was such that, being more or less equally-matched for gender (though I note there are usually about 15% more ladies than men and I wonder what the problem is with my gender if they are too slothful to drag themselves off the sofa to hold a lady in their arms for the evening), we formed lines with each man facing a lady. Then after a small part of the lesson, maybe five minutes, the ladies (usually) were moved on to the next man.
So, every five minutes, a new lady would appear in front of me, usually of a different size, shape and demeanour, which in itself assists in many aspects of the overall education that learning to dance provides. And each would introduce herself, and I would say my name and instantly forget hers.

After a period of time, they would return to you for a second time and it became increasingly embarrassing to keep asking their names, especially if they had remembered yours.
Then one day, a lady called Pam appeared in front of me, and into my mind came a picture of a time of Ye Olde Oake Ham from an advert in the 70s. Ghastly stuff as I remember, fatty and packed in salty gelatin. And I, in my mind's eye, imagined atop her head, a rotating tin of ham, like some advertising object on top of a building going round and round to catch your attention and make you buy... well, ham. And goodness me! I never forgot her name again. Each time she would appear I would say "Hello Pam!" and she would be astonished.
And so I expanded the idea. A particularly voluptuous but taciturn young lady called Nicola would always have her jeans hanging rather too low, thereby showing the majority of some very small and absolutely gorgeous pants, usually from Marks and Spencers, or occasionally Agent Provocateur (not that I paid that much attention of course.) Hence, it was easy for me to remember her as Knicker-la. Are you getting the hang of it now?
And so, it got easier. A lady called Diana strolled up one night to ask me to dance and I addressed her cheerily "Hello Diana!" and she replied abashed "How did you remember my name?" and I chuckled "Because of the bow and arrow!" which utterly mystified her. (I find it odd that someone should not have any idea of the origin of their own name, but the Huntress was a concept that she had never before encountered.) The image of her in my head was tagged with her in a chariot shooting arrows from a golden bow at some creature not included in my mental tableau.
Similarly, a nice lady called Helen took her turn to stand in front of me and when I remembered her name she asked how. "Oh, its easy!" I laughed "You have a ship on your head!"
Again the Greek myths provided me with the perfect attachment to remember her name by. Others followed: Gill had a pair of flappy ears behind which there were fish-gills, Vic has a biro behind her ear (no reason for the preponderance of ears), and Elaine has marmalade in her hair (complex synesthetic reason I shall not go into in this post. Names for me always have a synesthetic attachment. For Elaine, it is the taste, stickiness and colour of dark marmalade. I have no idea why). And all of theses "tags" accompany the face as it swims into view in the gloom of the Bath Pavillion. You would be amazed at how happy it makes someone to remember their name. Their confidence swells and they smile in the most gratifying way and it somehow makes the subsequent dance so much more personal.

So, I urge you: If you have trouble remembering names, add something relevent and silly to the image in your head of the face of that person. The more bizarre the better. Soon, you will be bringing smiles to aquaintances at every meeting!


Librarian said...

You really greeted Helen as Diana, and she was pleased about that? Just raising my left eyebrow here :-)

Certainly a useful method! For me, names have never been a problem, but numbers can be. To this day, I can not tell people my mobile phone number without looking it up first, and I always need to remind myself of the PIN for my bank card with a little calculation in my head, such as 3 times 2 is 6, and then there are the 4 seasons (if the PIN was 3264, which is is not, of course; this is just an example).

PerlNumquist said...

Oh bugger! Didnt notice that. Let me sort that out!

PerlNumquist said...

Sorted! That's what comes of checking my posts before lunch when my brain is shutting down.

Librarian said...

I don't only lack focus when I am expected to do something before lunch (or breakfast, or any other meal), I even get grumpy and aggressive when not fed properly :-)