Expanding Your Memory Toolbox
Now that you have learned several powerful, multipurpose techniques for memorizing almost any sequence of words or numbers, I’d like to show you specialized techniques for specific use cases. Imagine memory techniques as a toolbox: The more tools you have, the more things you can build … in your mind.
Memorizing Names and Faces
As Dale Carnegie said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” You can quickly make new friends or impress acquaintances you meet infrequently by remembering their names. But how?
Listen and repeat. You can only remember what you clearly understand. When someone introduces themselves, make sure you understood their name correctly and repeat it back. For example, say, “Hi, Margaret, nice to meet you.”
Give the name a place. As we’ve covered before, your brain is good with locations. Let’s use this strength and tie the name to the location where you met the person for the first time.
Let’s say you’re introduced to Fred Thorne at lunch in a cafeteria. Now use your imagination to create a vivid, memorable image from his name and place it in the cafeteria. For example, I might think of Freddy Krueger with thorns instead of claws standing behind the cafeteria counter serving food. The next time I see Fred, I will remember that I first met him in the cafeteria and that should be enough for my memory to fill in the rest of the picture. Freddy with thorn hands serving lunch will jump into my mind, and all I have to do is decode the image to get back to the original name.
Use facial features. Alternatively, you can associate a person’s name with a dominant facial feature they have. If you meet a woman named Petra Byrt who happens to have a long nose, you could think of her nose as the beak of a bird (Byrt), and Petra could become “pet” in your mind. So, you could envision a pet bird in a cage with a long beak. When you come face to face with Petra’s nose in the future, you’ll remember her name. Just make sure she never finds out about this helpful, but not especially flattering, memory technique.
Name drop. Coming back to Carnegie, use the name every now and then in conversation. This will make the name stick, and it will ring sweet in the other person’s ear.
Learning Foreign Vocabulary
One simple trick to remember foreign words is to tie the sound of the word to a picture and meaning in your language. For example, the Spanish word for “moon” is “luna.” “Luna” sounds like “lunatic” in English. Now picture a wild-looking person with a latex moon mask running around. You have now derived a picture from the sound (luna > lunatic) and added the meaning in your language (moon > moon mask). Decoding works in both directions.
• English to Spanish: If you want to remember the Spanish word for “moon,” let your mind conjure the image of the lunatic in the latex moon mask. Then you just have to get from lunatic to “luna.”
• Spanish to English: If you want to translate “luna” into English, you can use the same image, but instead focus on the moon mask to get to the English word “moon.”
Giving a talk? Don’t look at cards in your hands. Use the memory palace like the ancient Romans did! Visualize one keyword, and pin it to a stage in your journey. Usually, this is enough to trigger the thought that you want to talk about next. Tip: Try to use nouns as trigger words, as they are easier to visualize than verbs or adjectives.
Exercise: Go to any of your social platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, and pick a random friend of a friend whom you don’t know yet. Try using the techniques outlined in this episode to remember their face and name.
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