I am "working" in the local library team (about 20 members).

I don't know why but it is very difficult for me to remember the names of the other members, even though I know some of them for more than 6 years now. We don't meet very often (every two months) and it is a big problem for me to remember their names when I meet them, especially in private.

How can I learn to remember their names?

PS: I know there is another question but it's not difficult for me to remember faces/names.

  • Hi Serafina, welcome to Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange. We do have another question that's similar to yours: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/4/102.
    – HDE 226868
    Aug 25, 2017 at 20:07
  • @JoelHarkes If you have an answer, please post it below. Thanks. Aug 25, 2017 at 20:26
  • Write them down. You'd be surprised what just the act of writing something down as in terms of committing information to your brain.
    – Wadih M.
    Feb 1, 2018 at 15:19

4 Answers 4


I am terrible with names and just openly tell people this. Sometimes I tell them upon meeting them with a light joke about how I will likely ask their name again in 5 minutes. If I meet them again, they are then already told I am no good at this and I am hoping they aren't prone to taking it personally since it's equally applied to every name I have forgotten. Mine is so bad that I once got stumped trying to conjure the first name of someone I had known 20 years. I recalled his phone number (I was writing it down for someone else as a business referral) and then couldn't recall his name to write about the 9 digits.

I have always been this way, so I have no idea the excuse that I can recall his number that I use so seldom and trip up recalling his name. I am great with other details though as well. I will recall your face, that you have 2 kids, their approximate ages, maybe even sports or activities you mentioned that they do, that you come from this city or that, where you went to university, etc, and then have a total block on your name. I used to hate it. I am used to it now and I can't see it changing, so instead I often rely on other things I can remember to break that ice and let someone know that I do recall them from before. I can know a name and stumble trying to pull it up. That friend of 20 years, I had seen him at least once a week for twenty years, yet was at a loss for reasons I don't understand. I ended up asking the person to wait while I excused myself to call my husband and ask him the name. He laughed, but he is used to this.

For my children, I used the photo trick. When we go to parties and get togethers, I make a point to take a lot of pictures and try to get some with only one person in the photo. I then make albums with names for them, of friends and relatives we see, but not maybe often enough to make names easy. So far none of them seem to have my trouble with names and I hope they never do. I used this trick before my class reunion as well. I spent about a week daily looking at photos of people I thought I was likely to see and wanted to get the name right. In business I prepped myself like this too before any major client meetings and repeated the names I was going to have to remember. Even just saying them out loud (without a photo, just from a list) helped me to pull them up when needed. It did help me.

When all else fails I just apologize that one of my flaws is difficulty with names and I am sorry I have forgotten their name. Because I am good at other details, I often compensate by laughing about how I can recall they have a English Setter they adore, and yet the name is what I struggle with, and often it makes people laugh, and feel remembered. I have learned to make a point to focus then on what I am good at, recalling details about people, and then using that in the worst cases as a saving grace that I do remember you. People seem to be forgiving of my loss of recalling their name easier when I do recall something else about them. It makes it less likely to appear that I don't care or didn't pay attention. That is what you never want. You do not want people to think you are detached or not showing due respect when in a professional setting. At work I might even say something like, "It's so good to see you. How's that son of yours doing in hockey this year?"


A variety of ideas:

  • Find an excuse to see them more often. Grab lunch/dinner/coffee together. Host a workplace social (a potluck, for example). Pop in an say "hi" at random times (assuming they work nearby).
  • Take a picture of them. I had a professor once who asked everyone to hold a flashcard with their name on it. He took a picture of each of us, then used the pictures to study our names. A less obtrusive/obvious version of this might involve creating a "wall of workers/volunteers" somewhere in the library, with everyone holding their favorite book.
  • Use name badges/placards. If the group as a whole doesn't meet that often, you probably aren't the only person with this issue. Consider having "Hi, my name is..." badges at every meeting. Or name placards (whichever is easier).
  • Fake it 'til you make it. Not a great solution, but when all else fails -- improvise conversation until someone else mentions their name.
  • What's the favourite book part for?
    – gerrit
    Aug 26, 2017 at 10:21
  • @gerrit: OP said they work in a library, so it was just a cute way to sell others on the idea :-)
    – tonysdg
    Aug 27, 2017 at 12:30

In one of the manuals written by Dale Carnegie he writes at the beginning:

If you want to improve your ability to remember names, you must first sell yourself on the importance of doing it. Your progress in remembering names, learning to ski or developing any other skill will depend largely on how strongly you desire to do it.

Remembering names is a skill, not some magical process that only a few selected individuals possess knowledge of. And like any other skill, you can develop and strengthen it so that it is ready when you need it. But you have to want to develop it.

He goes on to write:

Increase your desire to remember names by constantly reminding yourself how the ability to remember names will: Enhance your popularity.

Help you in your business or profession.

Help you win friends.

Give sparkle to your social contacts.

Help you practice the Golden Rule by ‘doing unto others…’

Prevent embarrassment by showing you are genuinely interested in others.

Some techniques to help you:

  1. When you are being introduced to anyone - LISTEN. Concentrate on getting the name right. Think of only one thing: the name.

  2. If you do not hear the name clearly, say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name. Will you please repeat it?”

  3. Observe the facial characteristics for any distinguishing features.


@tonysgd has already given a good answer, but here you are something else you could try:

If you can't take a picture of them, try out social media.

If they don't have a profile you can try out the strategy I used: I simply wrote the names I couldn't remember on my phone (in my case I had 13 coworkers, so lesser than you) and checked them whenever I had 2 free minutes (going to the bathroom, taking a coffee...).

For me it worked in just 2 days.

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