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  • Bethany Huebner

The 3 Ways I Remember Names


clinician educator
When the students fill the seats, will you know each of their names?

As I spoke about it last week, knowing and using another person’s name in conversation is a sure-fire way to win them over. Any chance you are like me and decided to run your own experiment to see if this is true?


I recently ran a non-IRB approved experiment at my local Starbucks to see if this little intentional act of memory, really made a difference. I may, or may not, frequent one particular local Starbucks establishment 3-4 times per week. And I may, or may not, frequent this establishment at relatively the same time of day each time I frequent said establishment. Due to this, I frequently see familiar faces behind the counter. I decided that it was probably best to acknowledge my particularly high maintenance coffee order and apologize to the barista, Ashlee, for my neediness. She just laughed and proceeded to tell me of another customer’s order which is way more ridiculous than mine, so I felt a whole lot better! The next day…I mean the next time I was in Starbuck’s a different barista took my order. Ashlee was there preparing another customer’s coffee at the time, so I decided to run my experiment. I proceeded to apologize to the barista taking my order and said, “Ashlee and I were speaking yesterday about hard coffee orders and she made me feel better because it could always be worse.” I intentionally said Ashlee’s name to the other barista to see what kind of reaction would occur. Ashlee immediately turned her head towards our conversation with a huge smile on her face. I felt great! I thought that is where the results of my experiment would end, but I was wrong.


Remembering and using Ashlee’s name was just the one domino. The next time I went into Starbucks (now mind you I have been in this particular store previous to my experiment many times ordering the same snoody coffee order from all the same baristas) Ashlee was at the cash register, she pulled out a cup and started writing. She remembered my entire coffee order AND my name. Coincidence??? Maybe…but I don’t think so.


Names are powerful and as a clinician educator, I highly recommend you become intentional at knowing and using them. I have experienced difficulty with this in the past especially when I have to learn a whole class of 45+ students in a short amount of time. I also find myself meeting new people and never remembering their name. Three minutes after they introduced themselves, I’m thinking to myself, “What did they say their name was???” How do I forget so quickly one of the most important things I should take away from a conversation? Because I think many can relate to my situation, I wanted to share the 3 techniques I have found that help me to remember names.


clinician educator

1. Pictures.

I go back to best retention practices literature to gain support for this technique. Remember when we talked about using the senses in learning? Taking a picture allows us to associate a visual representation of the person with their name. That visual representation adds a sense to the memorization process. We hear or see their name, then add a visual representation. Many universities have student ID photos associated with the student’s account. I have printed out a course roster with pictures and studied them prior to the start of the course. This worked okay, but I found many of the students’ ID photos were taken when they were freshman and weren’t a great representation of them now. I teach one of the first courses in the physical therapy program and have since incorporated a head shot as part of the course. On the first day of class I take each student’s picture and then share them with the students to use for professional reasons as they would like. I then put all of their headshots with their names in a google drive folder and share it with our entire faculty. That gives us all an updated look at each student and allows us to begin associating names with faces.


clinician to educator

2. Associations

A few years ago, I attended a new bible study where several of those attending were new faces. Our leader asked us to go around and introduce ourselves. I always think to myself, this exercise is pointless…no one is going to remember each other’s names. But this leader added an interesting spin to the introduction game which made the names stick. He asked each person to describe themselves with an adjective that started with the same letter as their first name. So, for example, I introduced myself as Bookish Bethany because I love to read and love to learn. The second-best part of his technique is that he gave everyone 5-10 minutes before introductions started to think of their adjective. This allowed each individual to have a thought in place, so they could be intentional about listening and remembering the word association’s each person came up with. I see Kind Kevin at church all the time and know that his name is Kevin because of this exercise.


clinician to educator

3. Repetition

Remembering people's names is all about intention and repetition. When meeting someone for the first time or when a student comes up to you after class, you can solidify their name in your memory by being intentional at hearing their name and then repeating it throughout the conversation. You don’t have to be creepy or weird about it. It is actually quite easy to insert the person’s name into questions or statements without drawing attention to the fact that you are trying to remember their name. If you are meeting a person for the first time, you can say, “It’s nice to meet you, Beverly.” Then follow that shortly in conversation with a question that ends in their name, “What is your favorite part of your job, Beverly?” During your conversation, try to use the other person’s name 3-4 times within sentences or questions. While you are using their name really take in their face. Every time you incorporate another sense it will solidify the name further. Most people will walk away from the conversation feeling fulfilled and you will come across as a charismatic person…win,win.


Whatever way you choose to remember your students’, patients’, acquaintances’, or baristas’ names just be intentional about doing it. They will take notice and you won’t be sorry.


What ways have you found to learn names quickly?

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