3 Memory Techniques for Building Confidence and Strengthening Relationships

As I turned off my car engine, I panicked. I’d forgotten the name of one of the executives who would be in this meeting!

Reassurance came quickly, though, when I realized I could just look it up on our CRM system on my phone. But as I headed into the building with my phone in hand, I saw my opportunity disappear: One of the clients was waiting for me in the lobby. There went my chance to look up the name.

So I walked into the meeting with his colleagues, mentally distant and anxious as I worked hard to remember the executive’s name. I felt preoccupied and unprepared. Not the way to start a meeting.

Now you might be thinking I should have reviewed all of the names before the meeting. And you might be right. But what if this hadn’t been a planned meeting? What if it had been a chance encounter in the supermarket with the unnamed executive?

I would have felt no less uncomfortable and wouldn’t have been fully engaged in the conversation. In fact, I probably would have tried to keep him from seeing me at all! Not the way to start a relationship.

To get back on track in this meeting, I thought back to the guidance of my Dale Carnegie Course instructor, Clark Merrill, on how to avoid these confidence- and relationship-killing circumstances.

Don't forget

His first piece of advice was philosophical: Get your mind off yourself and onto the people you’re with. If you’re in your own head about your performance or agenda, good luck remembering much about other people.

And then he gave me three practical memory techniques to try:

  1. Repeat names and details. You’ve known this strategy since you were a child, but did you know this? Spacing out mental repetition over time improves recall. The further away from learning something, the harder it is to remember it. The harder it is to remember, the more memorable it will be once you do remember it.Repeat the information in your head after you hear it, then try to recall it en route to the next meeting and, finally, try to recall it again that night as you review your day.
  2. See it in your mind’s eye. Visualizing helps you make connections in your brain. Try mindfully observing someone’s face in a conversation, envisioning their face in your mind later, and connecting with them on LinkedIn to regularly see their photo.The famous Dale Carnegie Course uses a system called “pegging,” or linking, objects to be remembered to objects already memorized. Using this system to remember important details can strengthen relationships and performance.
  3. Build word connections. A few years ago, I met a couple at church named Tim and Kim. I really liked them and wanted to remember their names, so I quickly made a rhyme in my head: “Tim and Kim go to the gym.” It made no sense but two years later I’ve never forgotten their names.Songs, poems, jingles and catchy phrases stick—and you don’t need to be a professional poet to make a memorable phrase. You just have to make a habit of doing it.

Don’t resign yourself to the notion that you just aren’t good with names or have a bad memory. Try repeating, seeing the picture and building word connections. Take it from me—I know I won’t forget that executive’s name again!

Commit to improving your memory in 2015, and let me know how it affects your confidence and relationships!



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  • Mike Norman
    December 24, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Matt, This used to be so easy for me and now it is difficult. I can blame it on age but I really believe it is more about concentration and employing the techniques you have suggested. One thing I have found to be true is that most people have the same issue so if I encounter someone who I don’t know well, it is usually OK to remind them of my name first and often they will come back with their name, e.g.. “hi, I’m Mike Norman, good to see you again or what was your name again?” Obviously this would have been hard for you to do with your executive client. Thanks for the good reminders. This will be one of my 2015 goals… to be good at this again.
    Happy New Year! Mike