3 Hacks for Remembering Your Coworker’s Names

Johnny Duncan
August 30, 2018

We’ve all been there — that moment when you are looking someone right in the eye and know that you should know their name, but it’s just not there. You were probably just introduced to them or maybe you have talked to them too many times to not know their name. In that moment, your words hang and you start to panic. You can’t even finish your thoughts because you’re too worried you will reveal your forgetfulness.

What do you do when you get stuck in these situations? The answer: rather than just react to these moments, be proactive about trying to avoid them. All of us face some limit on how many names we can actually hold, (for more on this Google the Dunbar Number), but here are three tips that should help you to not only remember more names but create more meaningful relationships with co-workers as well.

  1. Write names on a seating chart
    This tip hearkens back to a time-tested technique called the Roman Room Technique, a memory strategy that uses your brain’s fantastic ability to remember items in a familiar place. And it can work for more than just things, as ideas and concepts can also be visualized this way. It’s a very useful technique, and one worth exploring deeper, but for now we will apply this principle to learning names from a seating chart. Write out the names of fellow employees on a seating map of the office; this gives you the chance to start associating names with these physical locations. Repeat the names by filling out the seating chart multiple times until you associate the face with the name on the page and the desk space.
  2. Associate names with what you already know
    We remember information about things we already know better than we do information about brand new concepts, ideas, or people. So when you get a new name, take a moment to consciously associate that name with something, or someone, already familiar to you. Perhaps the easiest associations are with either people close to you, famous people, familiar places, or favorite things. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a good rhyme, or even a pun. Just be sure to keep these associations positive and to yourself, unlike Michael Scott’s cringe-worthy example.
  3. Win with kindness
    The human brain is complex, especially when it comes to memory, but one thing to keep in mind is that we remember the people we care about. Use this to your advantage. When you meet someone new to the office, be sure to make a conscious effort to become their friend. Find out some things about them: what do they like, what are their hobbies, what do they like about the work they do? If done with authenticity and a desire to get to know them, this will pay dividends beyond just remembering a name.
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