Raise Your Powers of Observation—Remember People’s Names

January 7, 2013

In his book, “How to Develop Self-Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking,” Dale Carnegie tells the following story about New Jersey’s own Thomas Edison and the powers of observation:

Thomas Edison found that twenty-seven of his assistants had used, every day for six months, a certain path which led from his lamp factory to the main works at Menlo Park, New Jersey. A cherry tree grew along that path, and yet not one of these twenty-seven men had, when questioned, ever been conscious of that tree’s existence.

“The average person’s brain,” declared Edison with heat and energy, “does not observe a thousandth part of what the eye observes. It is almost incredible how poor our powers of observation—genuine observation—are.”

Introduce the average person to two or three of your friends and the chances are that two minutes afterward he cannot recall the name of a single one of them. And why? Because he never paid sufficient attention to them in the first place, he never accurately observed them. He will likely tell you he has a poor memory. But no, what he really has is poor observation. He would not condemn a camera because it failed to take pictures in a fog, but he expects his mind to retain impressions that are hazy and foggy to a degree. Of course, it can’t be done.

Joseph Pulitzer, who made the New York World, had three words placed over the desk of every man in his editorial offices:


That is what we want. Hear the man’s name precisely. Insist on it. Ask him to repeat it. Inquire how it is spelled. He will be flattered by your interest and you will be able to remember his name because you have concentrated on it. You have got a clear, accurate impression.

Here is some bonus information regarding this important principle from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey:

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @CarnegieJersey.

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