One of the most beneficial lessons I learned many years ago, was one of the many lessons I learned from the classic leadership book by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People. It is an intense and thorough book on influencing that will be beneficial for anyone preparing to lead, or who is already leading.
The particular insight I am addressing in this article comes from the book “Six Ways to Make People Like You.” The chapter I focus on is “If You Don’t Do This, You Are Headed for Trouble.” The premise of the chapter is that the average person is more interested in his or her own name than all the other names on earth put together.
I would never have known the importance of knowing a name, and using a name, had I not read Dale’s book. Through the years I have tried to develop my memory—both to recall names, and to remember to use them when talking with someone.
Last week, I did a seminar in a church. It was the second time I had taught these people. The first time was five years ago. A lady came up to me and began talking to me. She began by saying, “You probably don’t remember me but…” I interrupted, “Of course, I remember you! Your name is Lydia.” Her face lit up, and she exclaimed, “My, you have a good memory!” I replied, “You are the reason I am here today. It was you who initiated the process over five years ago to invite me to come, and now I am here again.” I could tell that my remembering her name made Lydia feel honored.
Honestly, I don’t remember everyone’s name, nor do I even come close to remembering a majority of the names of people I meet. I do know, though, that when I do remember someone’s name, it creates a kind of bond between us that may not be there in the times I have forgotten someone’s name. When a person is talking to me, and in the course of the conversation they say, “Bruce…,” to me, it feels personal, intimate, and valuing.
Recently, my wife, Ruthie, and I took in a training conference. The primary speaker, at times, when relating an incident would say, “My wife…” “When my wife and I…” “I turned and said to my wife…” Everybody knew his wife’s name after she had been introduced along with other staff present, but it felt so impersonal to Ruthie and me that he never said his wife’s name. I didn’t have a chance, but if I had, in a non-threatening, respectful way, I might have suggested to him that using his wife’s name is far more endearing than saying, “my wife.” It projects warmth to the listener. My guess is that off-stage, in conversation with people, he would follow the same pattern. This speaker was great, and he is not in any way a bad guy for failing to say his wife’s name, but I believe the simple habit of saying his wife’s name would make him come across more relational instead of objective.
My daughter, Cameo, was telling me about a female politician who wanted to get publicity pictures with her in the inner-city coffee shop she manages, to project community awareness for her campaign. Cameo doesn’t remember ever telling her name to the politician or the cameraman, but she did write it on the form she filled out before the photo session. Weeks later Cameo passed the politician on the street and she shouted, “Hi Cameo!”
“You have my vote!”
Almost always. When practical. When a server, a cashier, or teller has a name tag on I will either use their name in the conversation, or, if it happens to be an uncommon name, I will ask if they know anybody else with that name, or what their name means. I have discovered that, universally, people like to talk about their name, and it is a fantastic way to build relationships. Earlier this year, I was in a coffee shop during a trip to Kansas, and Renee was behind the counter. I said, “I like the name Renee.” She responded, “Oh, I’ve only met three Renees in my life. It is not a very popular name.” I said, “Wait a minute, Renee was a popular name when I was in school.” That surprised her. I went home and looked up the name Renee and found out that in the late sixties, Renee was the 65th most popular name—which is pretty high, but then it vanished from the list in the early seventies, as quickly as it had appeared in the sixties.
I went back to the coffee shop and told Renee what I had found about her name. Anyway, for Ruthie and me, this conversation opened up a relationship that was built on a few exchanges each time we went back to the coffee shop while on our trip. We ended up encouraging Renee in her future goals, and giving her some of my books and resources that were right in line with the Christian-counseling future she was pursuing. We may never see Renee again, but a name opened up a heart.
Such a simple truth to write about. Such a handy concept to know. Such a powerful tool to use. Bless you as you use it!
Excuse me, what is your name?