By Hanna Brooks Olsen
Have you ever left a conversation at a networking event, party, or other gathering and realized that, even though you talked to several people, only one or two of them left any kind of lasting impression? You look through the business cards you collected and you ask yourself: Who were those people? And all the while, you know the worst part is that everyone you talked to probably feels the same way about you.
Why does this happen?
The truth is, names, faces, and even experiences are easiest to forget when, well, there’s just nothing that memorable about them. Memory space is at a premium in your brain, which means that it’s going to try to dump anything that isn’t attached to something important. As a result, Jennifer, Jessica, and Joshua all sort of of fade, leaving you with nothing more than a vague feeling that maybe one of them worked in finance, maybe.
So how to you make sure you (and all of those very salient things you had to say to that potential employer, business partner, or date) are memorable? By being something worth remembering, says Science of People founder Vanessa Van Edwards. Vanessa, who spends her time studying real research and applying it to everyday life and situations, says that the best ways to ensure people remember you is to interact in a way that actually engages your conversation partners’ brain.
Varying from the standard script. “What do you do?” is a stock question when talking to strangers — but it doesn’t make the person you’re talking to think very deeply, or give them anything to remember about you. Instead, says Vanessa, use “killer conversation starters,” like “what’s your passion project?”
It sounds strange, but it works. One Medium writer even admitted that he and a friend turned this into a game, waiting as long as they could at parties to ask what people did for a living. When they finally did ask, he always responded empathetically. The result? People found him charming, likable, and memorable — all because he focused on other things besides work.
Asking better questions. “‘How’ and ‘why’ questions get people to dig deeper and give you longer, more thought-out answers,” she explains. So, instead of asking questions that begin with “what” or “where,” both of which have very specific, concrete answers, ask things that require a more abstract response.
Telling stories. Stories are awesome, says Vanessa, because the brain loves them. “Share a highlight from your weekend or a funny anecdote,” she recommends. Not only will it break any tension, it will also give your conversation partner something to think about after you part ways.
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