I’m a big believer in the efficacy of making an effort to remember things about the people you meet. I think that this Dale Carnegie story about Jim Farley illustrates the point well:

Whenever he met a new acquaintance, he found out his complete name, the size of his family, the nature of his business, and the color of his political opinions. He got all these facts well in mind as part of the picture, and the next time he met that man, even if it was a year later, he was able to slap him on the back, inquire after the wife and kids, and ask him about the hollyhocks in the backyard. No wonder he developed a following!

I built an entire application around the idea that this technique can help you to build your personal network, but it was recently brought to my attention that “remember things” is, as advice goes, a little vague. In any significant conversation with someone, a lot of material will come out, and there’s a certain art to deciding what to commit to memory (your own, or your mobile device’s) and what to let slide. Below, I discuss a particular instance of this general principle.


Let’s get a little housekeeping out of the way. Today I’m going to be linking to/citing material from a “pick-up artist” (PUA) blog. I would normally not do this, because that sort of material is not only disreputable, but carries with it all kinds of baggage that can only obscure whatever point one might be trying to make.

I don’t want to get involved in any arguments about the morality of PUA types or the general efficacy of PUA strategies. A friend of mine sent me the following, however, and it’s too interesting to pass up.


Original content here:

A man and woman have a conversation upon meeting for the first time. During it, the man learns that the woman works for a telecom company and graduated from Wake Forest. After twenty minutes, the man decides the pickup is going well and asks for the girl’s number …

Friday rolls around and the man, wanting to impress the woman, regurgitates some key information she mentioned during their initial meeting. The conversation then proceeds like this:

HE: Hey, good to see you again!

SHE: You too.

HE: Must be busy working at that telecom company.

SHE: Yeah, I suppose it is.

[Five minutes later, after some more talking…]

HE: So do you know any other Wake Forest alumni in town?

SHE: There are a few.

[More blah blah-ing…]

If the impression you got from this exchange is borderline creepy stalker vibe, you’re not alone. The guy in my above example sounds TRY-HARD. Most girls would be put off by a man laundry listing a bunch of prior conversational touchstones to force rapport. Women complain a lot about how men JUST DON’T LISTEN, but in reality they are turned off by men who listen too well. Or, more precisely, they are turned off by men who listen for the obvious, but ignore the subtext. …

More importantly, this kind of rote regurgitation is *boring*. If you are going to recall anything about a girl, make it her values or her personality quirks or her opinions on whimsical subjects. Say she told you she likes the color purple, has a bad habit of cracking her knuckles when she gets nervous, and is a thrill seeker. Now, on the followup date, a demonstration of your listening skills might go like this:

YOU: If you crack your knuckles, I’ll know that means its time for another drink to calm you down.


YOU: Didn’t you say your favorite color was mauve, or was it purple? I’m hoping it’s mauve, because purple is the color of kings and queens. It means you are going to be high maintenance for any man. Are you high maintenance? …

You DO want to let a girl know you’ve remembered things she said, but it matters *which* things, and it matters how you demonstrate your powers of recall. A truly advanced seduction artist listens for themes instead of dry facts, values instead of descriptions, and he relays his knowledge of her not by repeating her self-revelations like an overjoyed kid reciting the alphabet, but by slyly hinting at what he knows about her.


I think the takeaway bits here are:

  • “rote regurgitation is *boring*”
  • “it matters *which* things [you remember]”

Whether the principles discussed above apply equally in all rapport-building contexts, equally when dealing with men and women, or equally when building rapport to all ends, I leave as an exercise for the reader.

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