How do I remember conversations better?
April 10, 2013 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Help me improve my verbal memory.

Oftentimes in the past people have recalled conversations I've had with them and I say "sounds like something I would say," not recalling the conversation at all. I've been really interested in building a library of personal anecdotes I can share with other people. I know part of the key to this is repeating the anecdote over and over, which I try to do with limited success. One of the key pieces of a good anecdote is the conversations that accompany them like "so and so said this" and "then this person said.." I can't seem to nail that part down well.

Any strategies for remembering conversations so I can recall and repeat them later?
posted by Captain Chesapeake to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience active listening helps a lot with recall. When someone is talking to you, make sure you are really listening and taking in what they are saying. If your brain skips ahead and you interrupt or you're desperate to talk, your brain won't fully absorb what's being said (also, get screened for ADD). An important piece of memory is exposure, and often when things aren't remembered it's because you weren't really exposed to them-- whether that's zoning out while reading, letting your mind wander during a conversation, or just talking on autopilot without giving the conversation your full attention.

One other thing to mention-- I can often recount exact conversations, my boyfriend cannot. He claims this is a difference between women and men. Women can recount "...and then she said, and then I said, and then she said..." and men will just remember the main point and discard the back and forth chatter than went along with it.
posted by bonheur at 1:46 PM on April 10, 2013

If you don't mind writing, take notes/journal. Once I've written something down, it's a lot easier for me to remember it.
posted by aniola at 2:25 PM on April 10, 2013

Active listening is definitely important. Repeating (or 'mirroring') what others say to you during the conversation is a great way to imprint things to memory. We only remember a fraction of what we hear, so it is important to engage in other ways like repeating what was said, writing it down, etc.

Another factor to consider is emotion. We can discuss active listening and memory techniques all day, but a big reason anecdotes are remembered is because they are emotionally significant. You probably can't remember what you had for lunch two weeks ago, but you can remember some random event when you were four years old. That decades-old event is remembered because it was emotionally significant and probably involved pain, joy, sadness, etc. Focusing on things that are emotionally relevant to you will help you recall conversations.

How are you repeating your anecdotes? If you are simply recalling and repeating facts, you won't remember as well. Research has shown that providing information in the form of a story can improve learning and retention.

And, if you're like me you might be terrible at story-telling. I can remember small details and recall them in detail, but putting all those details into a good story that people will listen to and remember is incredibly difficult for me.
posted by sam_chompers at 3:01 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Looking for a smart "dumb phone"   |   A good document scanner for business and tax docs? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.