I have a terrible memory.
Well, not exactly a terrible memory, just a terribly unreliable one, and a mostly visual one at that. If we’ve met once before, I’ll recognize your face 99% of the time and might remember a useless detail like the fact that you were wearing a plaid scarf and drinking champagne when we met, but I’ll have no recollection of your name, what you do, or where we met.
Same goes with personal details about people I interact with semi-regularly. Sabrina’s lovely husband, who volunteers at that animal shelter near the bridge, who is a great cook, and who I’ve met dozens of times—what’s his name again? And Jake’s delightful daughter, of whom I’ve seen so many pictures over the years—is her name Mary or Marie? You get the picture.
But instead of resigning myself to always seeming thoughtless thanks to my Swiss-cheese memory, I started using a little trick years ago to keep track of the details I wish I were able to remember.
It’s simple as pie: While you still know the information you wish to remember, add it to the notes section in your phone’s contact book. I have the name of spouses, children, pets, favorite charities, you name it, for legions of people I’ve interacted with over the years. (Having the correct spelling of names is also huge.)
I’ve found that just the act of writing these details down helps me remember them, but I also often pull up my notes before meeting with or emailing someone. It brings me such pleasure to be able to ask a contact about his wife by name, instead of being able to picture her face and having to say “how’s...your wife?” awkwardly. And, let’s face it: That extra step and personal touch can really make a difference.