Flex Your Brain

by Grace Lin

“Class starts in 2 minutes, make sure you have met everybody!”

You make your way around the room and introduce yourself to new faces, while also saying hi to familiar faces.  The coach signals the class to head out on a 400m run, and you head out the door.  After passing the Spec’s sign, you realize you don’t remember a single name of those you just met a minute ago.  Slight panic sets in as you continue to run, and you think to yourself, ”Shoot! What if I get called on for the name game?!”

Trying to go unnoticed by the coach, you scramble around to ask your classmates who the new faces are.  And for a brief moment, you even consider asking the coach.  “No, too risky.  It might backfire, and I will definitely be called out.”  So, you continue to stress throughout the warmup with the unidentified names occupying your focus, instead of the actual warmup movements.

Has this happened to you before?  If the answer is yes, don’t fret.  It happens to most people.  I mean, let’s face it… the majority of us suck at remembering names.  I was terrible at it before I started coaching and it became part of my job to remember all the names.  But just because the majority of people are not good at remembering names doesn’t mean we should be bad at it too.  That’s why we come to the gym day after day, right?  So we can be better, NOT mediocre.  One of the simplest ways you can make someone feel recognized is to remember their name.  And let’s be honest, it’s embarrassing to blank on someone’s name, and borderline rude, especially when you’ve just been introduced.

Research has indicated that memorization of any kind is becoming a lost art due to our increasing reliance on the Internet as a substitute for flexing our memory.  It’s a catch 22 situation.  The Internet is wonderful, but it comes at a cost.  We rely on it for so much, it’s hard to imagine life without it.  Instant gratification has become the norm, so who would need to remember anything if they can just look it up within seconds?  Bottom line, it becomes a habit to not remember things.

Well, let’s break that habit!  And form a new one – a better one.  Here are some tips for remembering new names.

Repeat, repeat, repeat!  This is something I do automatically now.  Once I meet someone new, I immediately repeat their name in my head at least 5 times to make it stick.  It’s something that takes very little effort, but you need to make a conscious decision to do it.

Spell it out.  If it’s a simple name, then you can spell it out in your head.  If it’s a unique name or one that could have various spellings, you can ask them to spell it for you.  I will often ask someone to spell their name for me if it is uncommon, just to make sure I get it right (and so I spell it correctly on the whiteboard).  But try not to make a weird face while you’re spelling their name out in your head ☺

Word play or association.  Rather than just introducing yourself to a new face, mix it up and have a full conversation with them.  This gives you opportunities to associate their name to some type of personal detail specific to them.  Or maybe, when you first meet someone, there is a certain quality or physical attribute that sticks in your mind.  Use that as a trigger to remember their name in the future.  You all know I notice people’s shoes… well, this came especially in handy when Libby, Kourtney, and Maureen first started at the gym.  For the first couple weeks, I had to look at their shoes to get their names right.  (Don’t worry!  Now I know your names without looking at your shoes!)

Make connections.  This is similar to the previous tip.  Make connections between the new face to someone you already know.  Maybe your new friend reminds you of someone else who also has the same name.  Use that history to your advantage.

This last tip is the most important.

CHOOSE TO CARE.  This is the bottom line, guys.  There can be all the tips and tricks in the world to get you to remember someone’s name, but the crux of it is caring.  Psychologists and memory experts point out that one of the main reasons we forget someone’s name is that we aren’t really focused on learning it in the first place.  Choose to be intentional when meeting someone new and make the conscious effort to remember their name.

If you take anything from this post, take this: The first step to remembering names is to decide to care.  Genuinely take the time to learn your classmates’ names because you should care about the people you meet.  You’re working out with them every week.  And each member of the gym is part of our family.  So make the decision to care and learn those names!