A couple of weeks ago I called a consultant who does HR work. We’d talked off and on for the past 18 months about using assessments. He had several clients that needed to resolve management issues. In the meantime, he had introduced me to a new client needing to hire someone. The last time we talked was in December 2020. I called him a couple of weeks ago to follow-up. He told me, “I don’t know who you are, and I remember faces.”
Whoa! What a surprise. He was sure we’d never spoken with each other before. I painted a picture of our call in December. His response was, “I receive 116 emails daily.” So, I sent an email for a Zoom meeting, but doubt I will hear back from him.
You are not alone if you have had a similar experience. If you’re in sales, business development, management consulting, or leading virtual teams, you are more likely to face this new challenge for remembering people, completing normal tasks, and recalling specific points during a conversation. Many find they are “not functioning with normal mental quickness or struggling to find the right word.” (Why Your Brain Feels Broken, NYTimes Parenting)
Also, there are the memory challenges experienced by people who are COVID long-haulers, working baby boomers, and people multi-tasking instead of listening. Additionally, mental health challenges (e.g., depression, anxiety, and stress), can lead to false memories too. (PsychologyToday.com)
As you physically go into offices and business meetings, you must interact with people as they are today, not as you remember them from over a year ago! People change. These changes will impact conversations and situations since perspectives have changed too.
7 Tips to Create Mental Clarity
- Paint a Picture. If someone says, “I don’t remember …” or they appear not to remember, paint a picture of the last conversation. Describe where you were. Include any unusual situation (the coffee shop didn’t sell tea). Stay factual.
- Offer Your Name. Don’t play the guessing game. This will leave someone frustrated or upset they can’t remember. Instead, give them your name, business focus (10 words or less), and a quick overview of your last interaction. If you don’t remember your last interaction, start fresh and have a conversation about today.
- Stay Focused by Putting Away Distractions. “A lot of people think they are good at multi-tasking. The sad truth is they are not.” (Dr. Sanjay Gupta, author of Keep Sharp: How To Build a Better Brain at Any Age) If you multi-task during discussions, you will miss hearing important information and feel lost in future conversations. Some of you will even question your own memory if you failed to listen and allowed distractions!
- Send an Email. Recap and outline three key points. Do this before a scheduled meeting to get both of you on the same page faster. Be aware, if the person remembers it differently, ask for his/her version. Again, stick with the facts.
- Listen Anew. Put aside what you believe you already know or remember about the person, thing, or situation. Remember, you can be right or you can be effective. Instead, build a new bridge from yesterday to today by listening and being curious. It’s a great opportunity to create a “new normal.”
- Exercise, Eat, and Stay Active. This keeps your brain sharp. Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, and word games are several ideas to help keep your brain active. Eat a healthful diet and get up from your desk every hour and move for a few minutes. (Gupta)
- Remember to breathe when you feel agitated, frustrated, or you’re struggling to remember a word, phrase, or person! This is a simple and effective technique. It calms your brain from its automatic reaction of fight, flight, or freeze. Also, it reduces your stress of having to get it right and calms you so you can be present during the current conversation.
©Jeannette Seibly 2021
Jeannette Seibly is The Leadership Results Coach. She has been an award-winning executive coach, management consultant, and keynote speaker for over 28 years. She is an expert in guiding leaders and their teams to get unstuck and achieve dynamic results. Contact Jeannette for a confidential conversation.
A Note about Feeling Mental Fogginess from Jeannette. “At the University of California Irvine, research is beginning on how the lockdown has affected people’s memories. It’s been reported that even some of those amazing people who usually remember events like buying a cinema ticket 20 years earlier because they have highly superior autobiographical memory are finding they are forgetting things.” (BBC) The bottom line is, be kind to yourself and to others when memories are not clear as usual. If you want clarity on how to build a bridge from yesterday to today when talking with people, contact me to start a confidential conversation.