Most people who know me well have come to understand that I have a bad memory. It’s not your run of the mill “oh gosh, where *did* I leave those keys last night?” kind of bad memory. What they know me to have is a bona fide, non-discriminating bad memory. No sense talking about long or short term in my case. I can forget almost everything. All of the time. Which begs the question, if you know you have a problem, why not try to improve? You’re thinking that with just a modicum of effort I could wrestle this to the ground. Surely there are some good “how to improve your memory” books in the library. Or really, is it too much trouble to pick up a bottle of “Remember Fx” on the next visit to Costco? Isn’t there a motivational speaker out there with some “tricks and tips” to deal with this kind of thing? Why don’t you do something about it?
Truth be told, and I am only sharing this with you because you are reading my blog, my memory isn’t really as bad as people think. Don’t get me wrong…I can’t hold a candle to my 96 year old Mother who at the drop of a hat can rattle off every 10 digit phone number she has ever dialed and accurately recall the cost of six steaks in September 1964. But I did live through the ‘60s and sometimes, much to my chagrin, there are parts of it I do still remember. The reality is, early in my career it became quite evident that having a bad memory could work to my advantage and, as a shallow person it was incumbent upon me to exploit whatever advantages I had. Here’s what I’ve found:
- When you are upfront about having a bad memory people cut you some slack. “You probably didn’t remember that we set up a meeting yesterday so let’s try again tomorrow”.
- Before you know it they will not only excuse you but actually blame themselves for your forgetfulness. “I’m sorry, I should have sent you a reminder about our meeting yesterday”.
- Everyone confides in you, confident in your ability to keep their secret. You learn a lot that way.
- When the secret gets out, no one will ever suspect it was you who “spilled the beans”. “It couldn’t have been her…she never remembers anything!”.
- Your friends feel special when you remember to send them a birthday card, even when it’s belated. “Thank you so much, I can’t believe you remembered me!”
As you read this I’m pretty sure you’re wondering if having a bad memory can work for you too. And I’ve been thinking, why write a blog if I can’t take a risk, which is why I have decided not only to ‘fess up, perhaps more than I had originally intended, but also to share some of the ways I have been able to hone my skills. Forgetting is a bit of an art so don’t be discouraged if things don’t change for you overnight. It’s taken me years to get as good as I am at this so think of these as a place to start.
- Be upfront and tell people. “I’ll try my best to be there but I’m afraid I have a really bad memory”. They’ll love how honest you are with them and you’ll start to reap the benefits almost right away. (see #1 above)
- Spend a little time at the mirror perfecting a blank stare, and once you have that down add a little shrug of the shoulders for effect.
- Make “to do” lists…lots of them. Place them conspicuously on your desk. When someone asks you to do something look them straight in the eye and say “just let me write that down so I don’t forget”.
- At least once, preferably in a meeting, deny that you were the originator of a really good idea you’re given credit for. Since everyone else will insist it was your idea there is little downside and it’s an effective way to make people believe.
- About once a week walk out of your office with a determined look on your face. Halfway down the hall, in view of as many people as possible, stop suddenly with a quizzical look on your face, shake your head and return sheepishly to your desk.
- I know there are more but I’m afraid I can’t remember them right now.