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How a Concierge Commits Thousands of Names to Memory

Over the past 11 years as a hotel concierge, Indira Pun has committed thousands of names to memory. Her trick? She exercises this part of her brain like a muscle.
A woman walks out of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong (Photo credit: PHILIP LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Matching a familiar face with someone’s name isn’t all that difficult. But we often tell ourselves we’re “bad with names” and create a self-fulfilling prophecy for ourselves.

When a good impression hinges on remembering someone’s name, Malia Wollan from The NYTimes writes on some helpful tips given to her by the chief concierge at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong.

Her name is Indira Pun, and when asked how she commits names to memory, she says she treats this part of her brain like a muscle, exercising it daily.

“Your brain needs to be like a camera; take a picture in your mind of a unique thing about that person and register that uniqueness with their name.”

The next step is all about repetition — use their name in conversation, like, “So, how are you liking it here in City Name, Steve.” Also, while the person is talking, take time to continue repeating their name in your head. Scientists say it takes repeating something 38 times to help commit it to long-term memory.

Pun is a testament to the brain’s abilities to recall vast amounts of information, no matter how small, so long as you make the effort to exercise it. After all, she has accumulated thousands of names over the last 11 years. For those who don’t make the effort, and resign themselves to the belief that they are just “bad with names,” those names will typically get stored away in short-term memory, which is more like an overflowing cup — it can’t hold much and spills easily. It’s why we forget names almost immediately after we’ve met someone.

Pun says it’s important to keep this in mind:

“Everyone likes to hear their name.”

People remember that kind of stuff. So, it could be the difference between a successful encounter and a failure to make an impression.

To read more on Pun’s name-remembering techniques, head over to the The New York Times.

Photo Credit: reynermedia/Flickr


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