Most of us recognize faces (did you ever hear anyone say, “Oh, I know your name, but I don’t recognize your face”?). It’s the names we have trouble with. Since we do usually recognize faces, the thing to do is apply a system wherein the face tells us the name. That is basically what our system accomplishes, if it is applied correctly.

The first problem is the name. Well, that one is easily solved simply apply the Substitute Word system of memory. You won’t need it for many names that already have meaning names like Hayes, Howe, Carpenter, Fox, Paige, Coyne, Paynter, Gold, or Knott immediately create pictures in your mind.

For example, the names Hudson, Jordan, and Shannon will probably make you think of a river, and the name Ruth might make you think of baseball.

The vast majority of names, however, have no meaning at all. They are conglomerations of sound, just like a word in a foreign language. That’s where the Substitute Word system comes in.

memory techniques for remembering names and faces

Before we give you some examples, you should be aware of the fact that most people don’t really forget names. They just don’t remember them in the first place—often, they don’t really hear them in the first place. Just think back and remember the many times you’ve been introduced to someone, when all you heard was a mumble. There’s no way on earth to remember a mumble!

For some reason, people are usually embarrassed to simply say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear your name.” There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Since a person’s name is one of his most prized possessions, it’s flattering to make even the slightest fuss over it. Asking him to repeat it shows that you’re interested enough in him to want to be sure you get his name right.

Then there are those who don’t bother asking the person to repeat his name because they feel that they’ll probably never meet him again, so what difference does it make? Of course, they often do meet that person again—which is why half the world seems to address the other half as Darling, Buddy, Fella’, Mac, Champ, Honey, or Sweetheart. Not because “Honey” is so special to them, but because they don’t know who in blazes they’re talking to! Which is probably all right, because the chances are that “Honey” and “Buddy” don’t know who they’re talking to, either!

Anyway, if you would like to remember names and faces, there are three steps involved; the first step takes care of the name, the second takes care of the face, and the third locks the two of them together. What you have to do is associate the name to the face in some ridiculous way. But for now, let’s talk about the first step, remembering the name.

Ordinarily, there’d be no way to picture a name like Bentavagnia (pronounced bent-avane- ya). But you can picture, say, a bent weather vane. And bent vane has to remind you of Bentavagnia!

The Substitute Word system will work beautifully to help you remember names. Applying it will force you to listen to, pay attention to, concentrate on that name—to be Originally Aware of it. You can’t come up with a Substitute Word for a mumble. You simply must be sure to hear the name, even if you have to ask the person to repeat it.

Before you learn how to attach a Substitute Word to a face, you should be convinced that there is no name, no matter how long or odd-sounding, for which you cannot find a Substitute Word, phrase, or thought. It might even be a thought you can’t put into words. But you’ll always be able to think of something that can be pictured, and that will remind you of the name.

The name Antesiewicz seems formidable. But it’s pronounced ante-sevage, and it’s easy enough to picture anti-savage or Auntie save itch. Suddenly, the name seems less formidable. Pukczyva (pronounced puk-shiva) is another name that ordinarily would go in one ear and out the other because, subconsciously or consciously, you’d think, “I’ll never remember that, anyway—why try?” And, of course, you’d be right; you’d never remember it. But if you picture a hockey puck shivering because it’s on ice, you can picture that name.

mnemonics to remember names and faces

For the name Barclay, you could use bar clay or bark lay; for Smolenski, a small lens (camera) skiing; for Caruthers, a car with udders; for Krakowitz, cracker wits; for Frankesni, frank (hot dog) has knee; for Esposito, expose a toe; for Dalrymple, doll rumple; for Kolodny, colored knee; for Androfkavitz, Ann drop car witch; for Giordano, jawed on O; for Virostek, virile stick; and so on.

The Substitute Word or phrase you use needn’t contain all the exact sounds of the name; cover the main sound or elements, and you’ll have the reminder you need. “True” memory will fill in the rest for you.

As with most anything else, it will become easier and easier as you practice applying the idea. You’ll develop standards for certain names, prefixes, suffixes, and even sounds. Here are three standards we mention to our students: For Smith, always picture a blacksmith’s hammer; for Cohen, an ice cream cone; for Gordon, a garden.

For the suffix -son, you might always see a smaller version of the main thing you’re picturing. For example, for Robinson, you could see a robin and a smaller robin—its son. Or, you could use the sun in the sky as your standard. For Mc- or Mac-, you could always picture a Mack truck; for -itz or -witz, picture brains (wits); for -berg, see an iceberg; for -stein, picture a beer stein; for -ton, see the item weighing a ton; for a -ger ending, we usually picture either a wild animal growling (grr), or a cigar.

Once you use something for any name, prefix, suffix, etc., you’ll probably use it automatically when you hear that sound agai —it will become a standard to you.

Step Two In Remembering Names And Faces

Now for step two. You’ve just been introduced to someone and you’ve made up a Substitute Word for his name; what do you do with it? Well, what you have to do is look at that person’s face and select what you think is its outstanding feature.

You’ve accomplished one of the two important steps by forcing yourself to be Originally Aware of the name. Now, by searching for an outstanding feature, you’re accomplishing the second important step—you’re forcing yourself to look at, be interested in, concentrate on, that face!

What you select could be anything: hair or hairline; forehead (narrow, wide, or high); eyebrows (straight, arched, bushy); eyes (narrow, wide-spaced, close-set); nose (large, small, pug, ski); nostrils (flaring, pinched); high cheekbones; cheeks (full or sunken); lips (straight, arched, full, thin); chin (cleft, receding, jutting); lines, pimples, warts, dimples—anything.

First impressions are usually lasting impressions, and what is outstanding on someone’s face now will, most likely, seem outstanding when you see that face again. That’s important; but more important is the fact that you’ve really looked at that face. You’re etching that face into your memory by just trying to apply the system.

What you select may not be what someone else would select, but it will work for you. We all think and see differently—fine, that’s as it should be. What you see, what you select, is best for you.

All right; you’ve decided on an outstanding feature, and you already had a Substitute Word for its owner’s name. Now we come to step three—you associate the Substitute Word to the outstanding feature. If you do this properly, it will almost be like having the person’s name written on his face!

Even if step three didn’t work (which it does), just applying steps one and two must improve your memory for names and faces, because you’ve done what most people don’t do—you’ve paid attention; you’ve listened and looked.

But it is step three that gives purpose to steps one and two—it locks the name and face together for you. Form a ridiculous association between your Substitute Word and the outstanding feature of the face; that’s all. And, you’ll find that it’s almost impossible not to make the picture ridiculous; it will happen automatically.

Look, you’ve just met Mr. Crane. A picture of a large crane, as used by construction workers, comes to mind; or perhaps the storklike bird. You’ve looked at his face and decided that his high forehead is the outstanding feature. You look at that forehead, and really picture many large cranes flying out of it; or, you can see them attacking that high forehead! Or perhaps the entire forehead is one gigantic crane. As with any association, you have many choices as to the kind of picture you visualize. You must be sure—force it at first—to really see that picture. The next time you meet Mr. Crane, you’ll know his name!

memory training for names and faces

If Mr. Bentavagnia has a large nose, you’d see a bent weather vane where the nose should be. Mr. Pukczyva has bulging eyes; really see those shivering hockey pucks flying out of his eyes, hitting you in the face. Or, his eyes are shivering hockey pucks. Mr. Antesiewicz has a noticeable cleft in his chin. See savages charging at you out of that cleft; you’re defending yourself against them—you’re anti-savage. Mr. Cohen has deep character lines (they used to be called “worry” lines) on his forehead. Picture those lines being dripping ice cream cones; or millions of dripping ice cream cones flying out of those lines.

You’ve just learned the best system for remembering names and faces—and the only one that works for any name. (A strong statement, but we’ll stand by it!) In our classes, after learning the system, students call off the names of twenty to forty other students, whose names they’ve heard once—the first time they try it!

You can try it right now, using “word pictures.” Five of these were just used as examples. Go back to Mr. Crane, Mr. Bentavagnia, Mr. Pukczyva, Mr. Antesiewicz, Mr. Cohen, and really see those pictures in your mind’s eye. For now, since you’re trying it without real people or faces, see just the features themselves and the ridiculous associations. Now, meet four more “people” (features and names) and do the same thing.

Mr. Colletti has very thick lips. Picture those lips and see millions of cups of tea or tea bags coming out of them; you’re calling one of those cups or bags. Really try to visualize that silly action, and call a tea will remind you of Colletti. As always, you can make up your own Substitute Words and pictures. You might want to see yourself tasting the tea, spitting out a mouthful, and saying, “Call ’at tea?”

Mr. Ponchatrain has deep creases (character lines) from his nostrils to the corners of his mouth. You can see trains running along those tracks (creases); you punch them. Punch a train.

Now, meeting people in groups and remembering their names is one thing, but what if you’re in a business where, perhaps, three people a day visit your store, office, showroom—and you don’t know when, or if, they’ll ever come back? Of course, if they do come back, you’d like to call them by name. Many a sale has been clinched that way.

This is the only instance where we suggest that you write down information. Assume you’ve met three new people today, and have applied the system you just learned. Later, write those three names down on a pad you keep for just that purpose.

Writing each name is a review. You can’t write the name without thinking of it, and, if you’ve applied the system, you can’t think of the name without the face being conjured up in your mind. That’s the way the system works—think of the name and you’ll visualize the face; think of the face and you’ll visualize the name.

The next day, read those names. Three days later, read them again, and a week later read them once more. Then forget about them. The next time one of those people comes into your place of business, you’ll know that person’s name!

If you meet, say, three people every business day, you may occasionally be reading (reviewing) fifteen to eighteen names at a time. It takes a few minutes. You have to make the decision is it worth a few minutes, every once in a while, to be able to remember the names of people who may or may not visit you again? Most people think it is.

Now for some more tips on names and faces.

To remember titles, come up with standards like the stethoscope in your picture for Dr. Caruthers. You can make up a word to represent any title; then just get it into the picture as a reminder. For judge, picture a gavel; for captain, picture a cap, and so on.

For first names, make up a Substitute Word for the name and get it into your picture. Once you make one up for any name, it will become a standard for you. You might use all in for Alan, robber for Robert, cherry for Jerry, floor ants for Florence, bride (marry) for Mary, shield for Sheila, hairy for Harry, gym for Jim, and so on.

You can put anything you like into your original picture—the person’s business affiliation, spouse’s name, children’s names, hobby, how much money he owes you— whatever. Of course, it will take longer to form the original picture or association, but it would take longer to remember all that information in any case.

Some final points: Yes, you’ll be using high foreheads, big noses, bushy eyebrows, over and over again. Don’t worry about it—in remembering the name of every person in an audience, we may use as many as thirty high foreheads! The system still works. It still works because, again, you’ve had to look at that face with interest, attention, and concentration in order to decide that the forehead is the outstanding feature. That’s what really makes the system work. Similarly, it doesn’t matter if you always use a blacksmith’s hammer to remind you of Smith, Smythe, and Schmidt. You’ll know the difference because you had to listen carefully in order to apply the system.