Does Not Compute

memory failure

In business, as in other parts of life, people occasionally suffer from memory failure.  In some cases, it’s a convenient excuse used as a Get Out Of Jail Free card.  But in many circumstances, the memory failure is legitimate.

What most people don’t realize is that there is more than one kind of memory failure.  There are seven!

I can’t remember what I had for breakfast.

From time to time, all of us have had trouble remembering simple things like what we had for breakfast or what we did on Thursday of last week.  This sort of memory failure is called Transience.  Whether it’s caused by aging (the most common reason) or due to damage to the temporal lobe (which can cause extreme forms), this is a legitimate form of memory failure.

I can’t remember where I put the keys that were just in my hand.

This is usually considered to be absent-mindedness unless there’s a health issue at the root of this kind of memory failure.  Whether it’s forgetting where you put your car keys or it’s forgetting to grab something out of the house before you leave or it’s forgetting to bring the file sitting on your desk back at the office when you meet with the bank about a loan application, it all falls under the Absent Mindedness memory failure label.

It’s on the tip of my tongue.

This kind of memory failure is called Blocking because your brain temporarily blocks the part of your brain where the information is stored.  We’ve all gone through it — not being able to come up with the actor’s name that was in that movie whose title you can’t quite remember, and more.

My colleagues say that’s not how the meeting went.

Suggestibility is an interesting kind of memory failure in that it is caused by the insistence of others that their recollection is more accurate than your own.  It’s one of the main reasons that courts frown upon lawyers who lead witnesses with their questions.  When such commentary is allowed to happen, false memories may arise.

You just don’t like those kinds of things.

Bias is the sort of memory failure where knowledge, beliefs and emotions skew — and sometimes rewrite — past events.  Other forms of Bias is the romanticizing of past events where the negatives are conveniently overlooked in favor of the over-emphasized positives.

I just can’t get over that one time.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to remember the one time when things didn’t turn out as we had anticipated.  However, when it becomes the Persistence Memory Failure, the results could be tragic.  For example, those who are unable to get past a bad incident, sometimes find themselves unable to forgive themselves, thereby tainting future endeavors that are linked — even very indirectly — to the original incident.

Actually, it was John Doe who said that, not Jane Doe.

When Misattribution shows up, it’s a memory failure that is sorting through information and trying to line facts up correctly.  Sometimes it fails, and that in itself can create unexpected problems.

Final Note

So how do you successfully address memory failure in business?  One of the most effective is to keep a running account of what your workday looks like in your agenda book or daytimer.  Jot down important notes and include details like the name of the person or people with whom you were speaking or meeting, what was said by whom, where and what time contact took place, and other pertinent details.

In the end, these precautions will make your recollections more accurate and more reliable, whether you’re asked about things in a court of law or ensuring that everything in your business is up to speed.

Elyse Bruce


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