Nothing says “I’m interested” like paying attention to the little things when you’re getting to know someone new. But sometimes nerves, noise or a work project that’s lingering in your mind can make it harder to remember all the details.
Well, zap that! With the help of the two-time Guinness world record holder for greatest memory, Dave Farrow (who made history by memorizing and correctly recalling the exact order of 59 packs of shuffled playing cards), we have compiled the following tips to help you remember everything about your date — because someday, that first coffee date could be the anniversary of when you met the love of your life.
Memory-booster #1: Look up
Ever blanked out on a date? Try staring at the ceiling for a second. “It sounds simple (and it is), but looking up connects you to your visual memory,” says Farrow, coauthor of Remember the Bible. “Most of our brain is dedicated to visual processing. It takes a lot of our brain to ‘see’ stuff, so when we move our eyes in a certain direction, it changes the way our brain thinks.” And in the case of looking up, it helps you remember things better, too. Think about the last time you asked for directions (that goes for you too, men). Chances are you looked up because you were seeking to retain/recall visual references (even if you don’t remember doing it consciously). So, the next time you find yourself saying “What was I just talking about?” or you want to remember something funny your date just did, simply look up.
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Memory-booster #2: Go around mental blocks
You know that she told you the name of her cat, but now it escapes you. Or you’re sure he mentioned how he likes his coffee, but for the life of you, you can’t remember it when you’re at the counter, ordering your drinks. What next? Ask yourself some easy questions “around” the thing you’re trying to remember to get your brain back in gear. “By going down pathways of memory that ‘work,’ you start to connect to the lost info,” says Farrow. “It’s like going around a mental block exactly the way we walk around a wall to go behind it.” When you blank out, you are in a very forgetful state of mind. You need to get in a remembering state of mind so ask easy questions in your head about what you’re trying to remember. “If you can’t remember her cat’s name, ask yourself what color it is and how long she has had the cat — anything that goes around the mental block,” says Farrow. “After a few questions, the fact will come back almost like magic. Oh, hey, wait — ‘Magic’ — right, that was her cat’s name!”
Memory-booster #3: Play the name game
Studies have shown that when you meet someone for the first time, you tend to think about how you are perceived, whether the other person likes you, what you are going to say next, how he or she looks, what this person reminds you of, and if he or she looks like someone you know. But the one thing you don’t think about regularly is someone’s name.
Your best solution: get curious about people’s names. “When you’re walking around today and tomorrow, try looking at people and asking in your mind’s eye: ‘I wonder what [his/her] name is?’” suggests Farrow. “You may never meet these people or learn their names, but it will make your subconscious brain really curious — and there is nothing more difficult for your brain to ignore than an unanswered question.” By playing this mental game, you’ll start prepping yourself to remember people’s names in the future.
And you should always ask yourself the question: “What is this person’s name?” immediately before you meet someone new, or quiz yourself right after with “What was his/her name again?” as a follow-up so you’ll be more likely to retain it. “Doing this will get your brain to laser-focus in on names every time you hear them, and you won’t be caught in the embarrassing situation where you just heard a name and it’s forgotten before you had a chance to think about it,” says Farrow. “It gets your brain used to asking that question, so you start to focus on it right away instead of everything else.”
Memory-booster #4: Practice visualization techniques
“Most people remember visual information better than abstract information because it uses our senses,” says Farrow. “A name is just a bunch of sounds, but an object has dimensions, weight and features… it is just more for your brain to latch onto.” On that note, the best way to remember a name or detail is to think of something that sounds like it and picture it with your date. “If your date’s name is Kathy, visualize her owning a cat,” says Farrow. “Go one step further and remember her siblings — if she mentions that her brother’s name is Michael, think of him holding a microphone.” And if you really want to go for it, turn the name into a costume. “When is the last time you forgot someone in a weird costume?” says Farrow. “If you can imagine Kathy in a cat costume, you will never miss the name again.”
Memory-booster #5: Breathe from your stomach slowly and evenly
Stress kills…brain cells, that is. Get them back (and start remembering things like your own name) with a simple, steady breathing pattern: inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale. “When your body panics, it breathes faster and higher — in the chest, not the stomach — which helps you get more oxygen fast, but often makes you forgetful,” says Farrow. “It makes sense if you’re trying to outrun a bear, but it won’t help you on a date.” To counter this, simply breathe a bit slower and focus on breathing through your stomach, not your chest. All you need is just a few even, deep breaths for the relaxation response to start kicking in and bring your stress level down to a manageable level. Your brain works better with more air, but relaxing like this sends chemicals into your brain that help you remember things better.
Memory-booster #6: Use numerology for events on your calendar
Before you meet up with your potential Mr. or Ms. Right, keep in mind that this could become your anniversary someday. If you’re terrible with remembering important dates (of the calendar variety, that is), link this particular piece of information to a numerical system you already use every day. “You don’t need to use some complex code to remember important dates forever,” says Farrow. “Just think of something already related to numbers, such as money or sports.” For example, if your first date falls on the 16th of the month, think of a dime, a nickel and a penny. Farrow says turning calendar dates into their cash equivalents will prime your brain to remember them more clearly in the future. Or if you’re a big sports fan, a similar (and equally effective) technique is to think of the numbers your favorite players wear on their team jerseys and link those images to each date you’ve got scheduled. “The only thing that has been shown to improve a person’s memory is mental exercise,” says Farrow. “There is no drug or pill or prayer that has been shown to help more than your own effort — so make a numbers game out of it!”
Memory-booster #7: Imagine you’ve just met The One
On every date, imagine what it would be like if this person turned out to be The One. With that in mind, take a moment to lock in those first-date memories forever. “At the end of a great date, replay it in your head several times,” says Farrow. “Enjoy thinking about it like you’re watching a movie, and as you replay it, take mental notes of interesting things you see and special moments that happened throughout the night.” Mentally zoom in on anything that may become important later on, such as what the other person ate, what he or she liked/disliked, and what made your date smile or laugh. “Reviewing visual information right away has been shown to improve its retention,” says Farrow. “If you wait until the next day (or the next date), you will only recall a few things from this great event. But imagine going on your 10-year anniversary and saying to your spouse: ‘Isn’t this the same song that played when we first met and you ordered the lemon pepper salmon?’ There is nothing more romantic than remembering the one you love.”
Kimberly Dawn Neumann (www.KDNeumann.com) is a popular New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Redbook, Maxim and frequently online. A certified dating/relationship coach, she’s published two books:The Real Reasons Men CommitandSex Comes Firstand is the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com.