What did you eat for lunch two Wednesday’s ago? What score did you receive on last year’s performance evaluation? If you’re like most people, you’re having trouble remembering that information. There are many reasons why we forget information from the unimportant to the critical. We all miss things because we’re not paying attention, there are a lot of distractions, or there is too much to absorb (Chance, 2014). While traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease can cause memory loss, more often people forget because information is poorly organized in the brain. Another common cause of not remembering is that your brain processed the information as unimportant, or no longer important (Chance, 2014). This is part of the brain’s natural job, because if we remembered 100% of what we see, hear, or learn, we’d have a really hard time retrieving small bits of that information when we need them. The problem, of course, is that the brain does not always make good judgments about what’s important and what’s unimportant (Chance, 2014).
Before we can tap into increasing our potential for memory, we must differentiate between short-term and long-term memory. Most of what we experience (i.e. see, hear, touch, smell, taste) goes into our short-term memory and will stay there for about 15-30 seconds. However, if that information is not rehearsed in some manner, the neurochemical traces fades away quickly. The goal is to get the right information into long-term memory. One of the more effective ways is to use scaffolding. Scaffolding is a process by which we connect information to previously learned information already stored in our long-term memory (Park & Reuter-Lorenz, 2009). There are several methods to implement scaffolding, including outlines, connections (i.e. events, people, media), and using emotional ties.
Outlines are an easy, efficient method that involves organizing information into lists or groups which categorizes the information in a way our brain can easily interpret. It is far easier to remember an outline than a random set of words and numbers (Park and Reuter-Lorenz, 2009). Another key use of outlines is to consider the use of mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices help to organize information in such a manner that retrieval of that information is easier. A mnemonic device is simple and easy to use. For instance, I remembered the cardinal directions by saying, “Never Eat Soggy Waffles (North, East, South, West).” That chunk of information acted as a gateway to better encode and retrieve information.
Connections are important to consider, especially when it comes to rapport building in relationships (Park and Reuter-Lorenz, 2009). Suffice it to say, it’s really important to remember shared details about a prospective client or an existing client to increase the strength on the relationship. Ever been in a conversation and halfway through, you think, “What’s this person’s name again?” By connecting the words that we hear and the images that we see to what we already know; our brains make the connection to that previously learned information and create new neuronal pathways for our own ease of access, so we can recall and retrieve it at any given time (Park and Reuter-Lorenz, 2009).
Emotional responses are a great medium to enhancing memory (Park and Reuter-Lorenz, 2009). Think about a time that evoked a visceral response to a stimulus in your life. Can you remember important details about the event? Greatest part is it can be a big or small and positive or negative. All that matters is we tie that emotion to our processing and increase our memory abilities.
Increasing our memory is vital to success in human capital and organizational performance because it can increase the strength of a relationships and recall of crucial information at the right moment. For instance, talking with a prospective client over time and learning about their lives is helpful; though being able to use the details of their life and recalling it can really emphasize an empathic and more caring relationship. Hence, it may lead to a stronger relationship and have more optimal results.
One of the fundamental qualities in strengthening a relationship is having an ability to relate to one another. Remembering key details about a conversation and reciting them back invokes not just a sense of listening to the other person; it also deems the other person important. Important and meaningful conversations are just one of many avenues to creating, strengthening, and sustaining impactful relationships.
If you are interested in learning more about how to enhance your ability to forge stronger relationships with your team members, reach out to HigherEchelon for more specific tools.
- Chance, Paul. Learning and behavior. 7th ed., Jon-David Hague, 2014.
- Park, Denise C., and Reuter-Lorenz, Patricia. “The Adaptive Brain: Aging and Neurocognitive Scaffolding.” Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 60, no. 1, 2009, pp. 173–196.