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5 Tips to Help Memory Recall

Memorising the names of your new client’s board of directors, or the birthplace and job of your best friend’s fiancée, may sound simple enough, but in reality most of us find it easier to remember which store sells the least expensive milk and which petrol station carries the iced tea you drink on summer days.

Many of us struggle with remembering names and associating those names with faces and facts we’re told in a conversation, which can adversely affect our relationships. In the business world – and in everyday life – it’s vital to remember these facts as it will significantly improve your quality of conversation and ability to form relationships. Memorising names, parts of a conversation or information about someone gives you an edge and can help you to have more meaningful conversations, learn new information, be better equipped for debates and even land that dream job.

Name memory and conversation recollection is not for the faint of heart… but it can be done if you’re prepared and know the psychology behind memory recall. Here are our top tips on how to remember names and conversations long after they’ve taken place.

1. Repeat… Repeat

Yes, I said that twice on purpose. Repeat someone’s name as often as you can without sounding unnatural. My tip is to always repeat the name after meeting the person (i.e. “So lovely to speak with you, Elizabeth”) and upon exiting a conversation (i.e. “It was wonderful to meet you Elizabeth, I hope to speak with you again soon”). If you’re making introductions, use it as an excuse to repeat the name and pay close attention to the pronunciation. While memorising facts, repeat the key point of the conversation. If somebody tells you where they worked, whom they worked for, or what year they were born, ask them a few questions to help you gain a little bit more background information. The more you discuss a topic or the more interesting the information you receive is, the more likely you are to recall it later.

2. You Are Who You Associate With

Association is one of the most important aspects of name and information recall. Upon meeting someone, always associate their name with somebody or something else. Usually, other friends, family members, relatives, designers, or celebrities work best. In a less formal situation, such as a lunch or a cocktail party, it may be appropriate to state these associations which will help you inscribe it to memory (i.e. to Elizabeth, who you have just met, “My role model growing up was Elizabeth Taylor; you have such a lovely name”). Even if you associate the name with something completely unrelated, any sort of association helps in recall. While memorising hometowns or dates, focus on the basics: shorten the date to the last two numbers of the year, and imagine what season the month is in (October 7th 1994 becomes October 7th, 94’ in the autumn when the leaves start to change). When memorising facts, imagine whatever it is you’re discussing and paint a mental picture.

3. Making Connections

Connect information and facts with where you were told the information. For instance, while having a conversation, remember exactly what part of the room you were in and how you were sitting. If you can connect a conversation to your surroundings, your brain has the ability to go back into its filing cabinets and document more when you replay the scene in your head. Remembering what you were wearing, who you were with, or what the surroundings looked like helps you to recreate the scene while recalling information, and it becomes more tangible and realistic in retrospect. (Hint: This is why a single song or smell has the ability to cause the brain to recall information or a situation).

4. Linking Up

Link the main facts together. Pull out the three to five most important parts of the conversation, and link them in a memory chain which can be used to recall different parts of a conversation after. Memorise them in the order you were told them, and go over your memory chain right after finishing a conversation with someone.

Example: Elizabeth is from Manchester but lives in London and works for IBM. We talked in the restaurant’s bar about wine tasting in the autumn (because it’s summer and she hates the summer).

5. Are You Awake?

Be conscious. A lot of the time, we hear or see things but don’t engage our memory. Test yourself by walking down the street and recalling how many of the buildings you actually paid attention to. Did you notice that there’s an ATM right before the grocery store you always go to, or that there’s a recycling bin on the pavement opposite the Post Office? Probably not. Being consciously aware of our surroundings, both in conversation and while doing everyday tasks, helps us to become better listeners. When we pay attention, we remember things better (simple, right?). A lot of the time, we allow ourselves to think multiple other thoughts at the same time and don’t remember as much of the conversation. Be mentally present and your recall should improve.

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