This memory-linking technique can help you remember anyone's name

The most effective leaders are the ones who make you feel like they're really listening. Most importantly, they always remember names. 

So how can you get better at remembering them? Business Insider attended a Dale Carnegie training class and learned the secret to remembering names

Carnegie, known for his 1936 bestseller "How to Win Friends and Influence People," passed away in 1955. But his self-improvement courses have trained more than eight million people, including billionaire Warren Buffett

According to the lecturer leading the course we attended, the best way to remember someone's name is to incorporate things you know about the person into a mental picture that reminds you of the name — the more exaggerated the image, the easier it is to remember.


Carnegie writes in his book "Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business" that "the secret of a good memory is thus the secret of forming diverse and multiple associations with every fact we care to retain." Our minds are essentially "associate machines", and the reason it's hard to remember people's names is because there's no meaning behind the name for the listener. 

Carnegie's memory-linking technique is to picture images that sound like a person's name — and combine it with other things you know about them. 

For instance, if you meet someone named Laura from Brazil, imagine her with a laurel wreath on her head swimming in the Amazon River. 

Similarly, you could combine these elements in a ridiculous phrase. 

To remember that Mr. O. W. Dolittle sells cars for a living, for example, you can remember the phrase "do little and you won't succeed in selling cars." For Mr. Thomas Fischer who works in coal, you can remember the phrase "he fishes for coal orders." And if you meet a scientist named Matt, you can remember him as "the Matt scientist," which sounds like "the mad scientist." 

Although these exercises may sound silly, Carnegie says they are proven to work. 

Indeed, three-time US memory champion Nelson Dellis told Forbes he uses the same technique to remember names. In competitions, Dellis must memorize a list of 99 names and be able to successfully match them to faces. 

Creating a mental image is the best way to get the information to stick, he said, and he usually thinks of an image that incorporates a memorable physical feature, like a prominent nose or unique hair style. 

It's also important to confirm you've heard the name correctly and to use it in conversation to truly cement it in your brain.

By Vivian Giang, Image by Tech Hub/flickr

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Keenan Orfalea