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4 easy strategies for remembering names and passwords

By Lynne Curry  bio

Which problem fits you?

  • Your clinic has grown and you don’t remember the names of all the employees and you realize this hurts some employees’ feelings.
  • Several of the sites you regularly access ask you to change passwords monthly and you have a hard time remembering the newer passwords.
  • Several longtime patients expect you to remember their names when you pass them in the lobby; you try to bluff when you don’t remember names, but several patients have seen through your bluff. You can’t even say you didn’t use their names for HIPAA protection, because they were the only patients in the lobby at the time.

Memory, if only it was easy.

The good news?

It’s easier than you realize.

Strategy 1: Breathe

What? That’s too simple.

Yes, except you don’t – breathe deeply and slowly that is. Consider this scenario. You’re walking down the street and meet someone you know, but can’t remember their name. You try to fake it. Then, when you walk off, their name comes to mind. What happened? Nothing easily come out of nor goes into memory and you breathe rapidly and shallowly. As you walked off, you relaxed and breathed more deeply.

Strategy 2: Make it matter

When we notice something, we quickly and transitorily register the information in our brain only to lose it as other information supplants it. For example, if you drive up to an intersection and see a car entering an intersection on the tail end of a yellow turning to red light, you may think “that car took a risk.” Even though that’s a relatively dramatic traffic incident, you forget it within minutes.

If you want to remember something, shift your mind off cruise control into “on” by making it matter. For example, imagine that you’re given the password 8224300N0IM86ED and need to remember it. At first glance, that looks like a particularly difficult password. What if you made up a story about it? Here’s a story that might work, “I ate too, too much for free, oh oh no, I’m 86ed.” If you like it, you now have a strategy for designing hard to break passwords.

Strategy 3: Link audio to visual

Do you remember faces but not names? That’s because, like approximately 65 percent of people, you have a stronger memory for what’s visual than what’s audio. Here’s how you’ll know if you’re in that 65 percent. Think of a giraffe.

Did you just “see” a giraffe in your brain or did you talk to yourself about the giraffe? If you saw an image of a giraffe, that indicates how you tend to store information – visually.

Try applying this thought to names. Consider what happens when you meet someone with a foreign or unusual name such as Tanzeem. Chances are you think “what an unusual name, possibly a Middle Eastern name.” Then when you next meet Tanzeem, you remember that, “this man had an unusual name,” but you’ve forgotten the name. Imagine instead that you spelled the name to yourself, “T-a-n-z-e-e-m,”

Now, please look up from the page and spell Tanzeem.

Strategy 4: Repeat

How many days in September? If you found yourself repeating a rhyme in your mind, “30 days has September…,” it shows you the value of repetition. We don’t, however, do this when we meet new people. They tell us their name and then we tell them ours, and enter into conversation. If you want to remember, name a person’s name, use it in the conversation. If that’s not feasible, repeat it in your head within several minutes of meeting the patient or employee.  

Research shows silent repetition increases your memory of anything by 30 percent and out loud repetition increases your chance of repetition by 50 percent.

Would you like a better memory for names or passwords? It’s easier than you thought.

Lynne Curry, PhD, author of “Beating the Workplace Bully,” AMACOM 2016, and “Solutions” regularly presents to the Medical Group Management Association, Alaska Chapter and provides services to multiple medical practices and hospitals. You can contact Curry @

The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.









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