How often are you introduced to someone and you quickly forget their name? Or you attend a meeting and shortly after cannot recall what was discussed?
Research by Dr. Art Markman (University of Texas) has shown that your memory of an event (introductions, business event, a meeting, hockey game, car accident, etc.) is organized around three separate things that you experienced during that event. This is because your brain can typically only pay attention to three “sub events” at one time and then tends to organize all of your memories around these sub events.
Dr. Markman calls this the “Role of 3.”
Personally, I have a hard time remembering a person’s name after I have been introduced. I am not sure why but I do know that I am not alone. I have talked with many people who forget the name of a person pretty much immediately after they have shook their hand!
I also have a tendency to forget the details of business meetings if I am just sitting passively and not engaged or taking notes. I know this is also true for many people because I have asked coworkers about a topic that was covered in a meeting we both just attended and they cannot recall any details about that topic!
But do not fear! There is a simple solution to dealing with new information so that it is stored properly in your brain in a way that you can remember it when required. In addition, Dr. Markman has identified some techniques that allow this new information to become even more valuable by making connections with other pertinent information that is already stored in your brain.
The best way to understand the Role of 3 technique is to review these three simple examples from Markman below.
Example 1: When you are introduced to someone you should;
- Pay attention!
- Turn the name of the person into something that is related to them (e.g., a physical attribute – Brian = brainy or Ted = big head). This makes connections in your brain between the name and other things. This helps to “cement” the name into your brain.
- Use the person’s name in a conversation as soon as possible. This helps your brain to tie the person’s name to them directly and not just to a related item from step 2.
Example 2: To improve the quality of your memory at an event, Markman recommends that you:
- Prepare in advance for the event. If it is a business meeting or a class or seminar, do a little advance research and learn about the topic prior to the event. Prepare your mind. Determine what you want to get out of the event.
- Pay attention during the event and don’t multitask. Take notes but don’t be distracted by the note taking itself.
- After the event, review what you heard, saw, or observed and write out the main points or the main take-away. Spend a few minutes tying your new knowledge to knowledge that you already have (this is a crucial step). This helps to interconnect and associate your new knowledge to existing knowledge and results in better understanding and retention.
Example 3: Use the Role of 3 when you are doing a presentation or leading a meeting;
- In a brief sentence or two, introduce the three main topics of your interaction
- Stay relentlessly focused during the interaction on these three topics
- At the end of the meeting, review the three key points to further drive home the points and the Role of 3
Stand out from the crowd by using the Role of 3 and getting the most out of all your interactions and events. Start this week and see how much of an impact this technique can make for you!
For mode details on this topic refer to Markman’s book Smart Thinking.
“Everything that is past is either a learning experience to grow on, a beautiful memory to reflect on, or a motivating factor to act upon.” Denis Waitley
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