Practicing Remembering People

New Hampshire
(a photo I took in New Hampshire)

For me, remembering people I meet is a skill I would absolutely like to cultivate and I’m actively working on. It’s been difficult for me for years. Often I meet someone, and ask their name again when I forget it… but after one or two times I feel too embarrassed to ask their name once again. I realized I wasn’t just failing to remember names, I was forgetting that I had even met people. Years ago I was walking down a street and only one other person was walking toward me.
I looked at him and thought: “Well, I definitely don’t know who that guy is, so I can’t expect to know the name of someone I’ve never met.”
Then he said: “Hi Bill!”
Me: Dammit.

So now I see remembering people is going to be a practice… Like everything else in my life I am using Evernote for this. I made a new tag just called People and every few days or weeks or whenever I get around to it, I make a new note with someone’s name I’ve recently met as the title. If I have their picture I put that in next. Then I just write out whatever I can recall about the person. Where we met, what we talked about, how we may be connected, their contact info if I have it, my impressions from meeting them, anything we said would happen in the future (for instance, if they told me about a good book to read, or if I said I’d send them a link), what they do for work, what they mentioned they like doing… anything I can remember. Putting this down, especially things they’re passionate about like hobbies, means I can be helpful to them. When I come across a particularly great article on how economists are needed at software development companies I may think: “Didn’t I just meet someone who is an economist and wants to switch careers?” Then I open evernote (well it’s always open) and search  “economist” + tag:people and there she is and I can send her an article that may genuinely be helpful.

It’s important to think about why you want to remember people. For me, it’s about genuine connection with people I am lucky enough to be alive with at the same time. And everyone is so interesting if you can really connect. People are naturally curious and we want to be helpful. For me, it feels great to be genuinely helpful to someone.

A lucky side effect of this is whenever I put a new person into Evernote, I see some of the recent notes tagged “people,” and so I get to review some of the people I recently met. When I started this I thought I would go back and put in everyone I already knew in my life but that seemed daunting…  which made me not even begin. So, I just started with the next person I met. So far this is working for me and is actually fun, which keeps me doing it.

I may try to hack this in a way to use Anki or a system like that within Evernote to make the People tag into a flash card deck. As is pointed out in the wonderful Learning How to Learn, flash cards are a truly effective tool for learning. Maybe quizzing myself by seeing someone’s picture and having to remember their name, or seeing their name and having to recall what they look like and some details about them would be helpful.

I hope this is helpful for you.

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