“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” — Dale Carnegie.
Our name is at the very core of who we are. Since birth it has helped to define us — it’s the first word our parents use, a name mentioned in laughter by friends, or whispered in love by our spouse. It’s a way to immediately grab and hold our attention.
It means we’ve been recognized and acknowledged and makes us feel more warmly towards the person using it. Our name is the starting point of trust, and a way to build a better relationship with others. In short, our name is at the core of who we are, and if you want to get ahead in life and business, learning to use other’s names properly is vitally important.
Why Names Are So Important
A name is a person’s most vivid connection to their own identity. When you use a person’s name, you’re reminding them that they matter and that you have recognized their importance. If a person has met you before, and they use your name a second or third time, it means you’ve been remembered.
All of us want to have an impact on the world and others, and if our actions leave the memory of your name behind, that’s really something. The power of a name goes beyond just personal identity though.
“What’s in a name?” ― William Shakespeare
The name your parents choose for you can reveal a great deal about their cultural identity and beliefs. For example, a traditional name like Charles or Jonathan speaks about structure, history, and family values. A modern name like Rihanna or Brittany might identify parents who follow trends and want to be seen as innovative.
Because a person’s parents held these values, it’s likely they have adopted them too. When you use their name, you’re reinforcing those connections with their underlying values, and that’s often something people like to be reminded of.
Religious and Ethnic Background and Values
Some names are strongly associated with particular ethnic traditions and backgrounds. Parents who name their children Angelo, Carlos, Jamar, or Muhammad may indicate deeply held religious or cultural beliefs. Again, this can generate a very strong sense of identity, and when used helps to deepen that person’s connection with their roots.
Prefixes, Respect, and Profession
It’s not just our given names that matter. Using a prefix someone has earned is a measure of respect and recognition. In a business environment, calling someone Mr. Bezos is likely going to be more effective than the much more informal “Jeff.” Likewise, if a person has earned the title of Doctor, Professor, or a military rank, using that prefix is a sign that you recognize their accomplishment.
All this is to say there is a very powerful psychology behind names that you can take advantage of.
“Names have power.” ― Rick Riordan
The Benefits of Using Someone’s Name
Here are the main advantages to remembering and using someone else’s name.
- It shows you know and remember them, and people want to be known and remembered.
- It creates an easier social and business dynamic, and builds assumptions into your relationship.
- It recognizes someone else’s individuality and who they are as a person.
- It can demonstrate respect and that you understand proper social interactions with the other person.
- It leaves a positive and lasting impression on the other person.
- It starts to nurture a good relationship with someone who used to be a stranger.
This helps you get ahead in life, relationships, and business. People react more warmly when their names are used, and are more likely to give you what you want.
What Happens When We Don’t Remember Names
We’ve all been in that awkward situation when we know we need to remember a name, and we’ve failed to do so. It’s a very disarming feeling — you try to listen out to see if someone else mentions it, or to get a sneaky glimpse of their lanyard badge.
We’ve all experienced professional or personal relationships where forgetting a person’s name has either worsened the relationship or not driven it forward. Even if nothing is said, we know that they know!
“Names are a way to keep people in your mind” ― Maggie Stiefvater
Techniques for Remembering and Using People’s Names
The secret then, is how to remember people’s names in the first place. Fortunately, there are a few good options.
There are a few simple steps you can take to etch people’s names indelibly in your memory.
|1||Understand||You do have the power to remember names. You can get over the self-defeating attitude of thinking it’s really difficult. You can learn this as a skill, just like anything else you practice.|
|2||Practice||When you go into a new situation with strangers, ask their names. Realize that you’ll need to practice using those names to make them stick. Expect to spend a month or two developing good name recollection.|
|3||Converse||Start to use names in conversations. Just ask one or two names to begin with, and as you progress, ask for more and more. As you practice, your recollection skills will get stronger. When you use names in conversation, you get to really hear them, and sounding them out will help your recall.|
|4||Ask||Don’t be afraid to ask for names if you forget them. It’s much better to weave it into the conversation as it shows you are interested enough to ask for a name again.|
|5||Visualize||Many memorization techniques associate words with images, as it’s often easier to remember a mental picture than an abstract word. You can use this with people’s names. For example, if someone’s name is Paul, imagine them swimming in a pool. If they’re called Tara, imagine them in “Gone with the Wind.”|
|6||Finish||Finish a conversation with a person’s name — it’s another way to reinforce it in your mind.|
|7||Repeat||Keep at it. Take every opportunity to learn and use names, and see your memory strengthen.|
Other Techniques for Using Names
On the Phone
If you’re on the phone with someone, ask for and write down their name at the beginning of the conversation. That way you can use it throughout. This is especially effective if you’re dealing with customer service agents.
Going Into a Meeting
If you’re going to a meeting with others you haven’t met before, make a note of the people who are going to be attending. If possible, look them up on your employee directory or LinkedIn, and see if they have a profile picture. That way, you can put a name to a face.
Dealing with Customers
If you have customers, see if you can link their CRM records with a social media profile. That way you may get to see a photo of them to make it easier to rememebr their name.
Use Names in Emails and Instant Messaging
Every interaction with someone is a chance to reinforce that you know their name. Start emails with a person’s name and use it in Slack chats, instant messaging, and other electronic interactions.
Using these techniques will put you in a better position. It will make your personal, social, working, and business life go more smoothly. A few weeks mastering this life skill will pay dividends later on, so why not start now?