How to remember everyone you meet?

  • By Team TDO

Now that would be quite a feat, would it not? To be able to recall the name and occupation of every person we ever encountered right down to the minutiae of how, where, and why we were introduced to them to begin with!

Sometimes we raise the bar of forgetfulness to the extent of forgetting just who it was who introduced us to "Mr. what’s-his-face!"

If only there were ways to remember the modest and average people who leave virtually no impression on us, wouldn’t that save us great embarrassment? Plus it will help us do away with those sheepish looks when it dawns upon the other person that you haven't the foggiest of notions as to who he is.

Stranger: Hi! You remember me? How are you doing, Frankie?

Frank: Umm! I am well (this guy's face looks mighty familiar, but for the life of me, I cannot recall ever having cast my eyes on him).

Stranger: So, how was your annual bridge completion? Manage to beat the Swiss pairs this time?

Frank: Atta boy! Got it! This guy happened to be kibitzing at the weekend bridge club at Aldermere. Whew!

Stranger: You gave me quite a start there. You looked right through me and I was quite not pleased at the fact that just last week I happened to congratulate you.

Frank: Well Martin, be tough to not remember you, of course I do! Just didn't think of bumping into you here.

Martin: Well, I am Walther and I can now see that you don't remember me at all!

How many times has the above scenario happened to us? While it is well-nigh impossible to remember every name or face that we come across, it would be a good habit to at least attempt our ‘mental name book’ to avoid an occasion for future embarrassment! Now, how in the world does one do that?

Simplest way would be to carry a small notebook with a pen to make note of someone that you have just been introduced to, at a meeting or a social do. Our friends often introduce us to people and chances are that if there is no occasion to remember that person, then the brain fades it out of its memory list, as it will only use up space on the brain’s 'hard disk.'

Human memory might be jogged to remember trivia from 25 years ago in great detail, but ask a simple question – remember what you had for lunch last Tuesday? - and that would be very difficult to answer, especially if last Tuesday was just an ordinary day with no special reference points around lunchtime to help you remember.

Maybe if something momentous had occurred on Tuesday last, like pretty Meg from next door, sharing lunch with you rather unexpectedly, then you can bet your bottom dollar you will remember what you had on the day in question.

So create reference points! When you are introduced to someone, first and foremost, reference it with who introduced you and then try and make a reference of at least one unique distinguishing feature in that person. Now you don't really require the eye of a physiognomist, and it would be mighty impolite to stare hard for the "distinguishing feature" coin to drop.

So a quick look and you got 'long nose Mary Gomez' all referenced and ready for recall at the next chance meeting. Make the reference phrases funny so that you won't have any problem whatsoever in recalling the name behind the funny phrase when you most require it.

Alternatively, try associating a picture with the name if you aren't very good with phrase reminders. These techniques are called mnemonics, which is pronounced ni-mon-nics, and funnily enough the very curious spelling – Mnemonics makes you want to have a picture card memory association for the right pronunciation. A mnemonic for this could be ‘knee-moan- knicks". Easy enough, i.e., if you remember the sequence right.

You could also try memory exercises with names picked off from the telephone directory at random. Pick an A-lister say – 'Anderson' and then flick through to D and pick 'Dougherty' and so on until you have picked at least 10 names of a different alphabet.

Now, try and write down the numbers that you must have undoubtedly memorized until now. You can consider yourself blessed even if you are able to memorize the number of the third person by the time you reach person number 10. This will give you a memory for names and numbers at least. Or, go through any university web sites and look at the photo galleries of past alumni.

Give yourself 1 minute to quickly glance at all the names on the page. Then try and recall the name by applying the memory picture association or develop your own technique.

With regular practice, you could well be in the employ of the local police to help identify criminals off a line up.

If that's too dangerous for you, then at least that will keep your brain alert and active with this brain gym and help avoid any boo-boos in the future.