What’s in a name?
Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While beautifully poetic, the reality is that the scent of a rose is quite unique from that of a daffodil. We could simply call it a flower and be done with it, but the more detail we afford the flower, the more appreciation we find for what makes it unique from others. Similarly, with respect to our fellow neighbor, when we use their name we pay homage to their individuality.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Learning someone’s name is the genesis of community. Remember kindergarten and making new friends? We always started with an introduction of ourselves and then followed with asking our budding new friend their name.
Learning someone’s name is the genesis of community.
Remembering that name was a priority because we wanted companionship. Obviously, we aren’t always seeking a new friend every time we meet someone. Yet, as we mature, if our aim is to show an appreciation of and care for other people, then learning names is a good place to start.
One singular sensation: Names signify unique identification welcoming others to see and hear us with just a single word. Why do people name their cars or their plants? (I know I’m not alone in doing this). Perhaps personifying affords us a more personal connection with that object. As we personify, we tend to treat the object with more respect and empathy than when we do not. Likewise, when we take the time and effort to learn someone’s name, we invite in a more personalized connection that reinforces that person’s value within our brains.
Why are most of us so “bad with names”?
The last time you met someone, you probably said something along the lines of, “Sorry, I’m not good with names. I probably won’t remember yours.” Most of us are not intrinsically great at memorization.
With learning anything, strategy is key. It takes practice and repetition. The more we do something, the better we get at it.
Why do we discount repetition in introductions?
While the digital age hasn’t aided in this area, as memorization isn’t as common a practice as it was when all the telephone numbers and directions we needed to know were stored in our brain, perhaps the real reason we can’t remember someone’s name is far beyond the excuse of a smart phone and lies in the deserted land of an absent mind.
Absent-mindedness is memory failure due to lack of attention. Thus, remembering someone’s name is really just a matter of paying attention when they offer it.
Where is our attention if not on the individual directly in front of us?
We need to take responsibility and concede that most of the time in new situations, we are so concerned with ourselves and how others are experiencing us that we misplace our focus. A gentle reminder: We are only responsible for our behavior toward others and not their feelings about it. Give our full attention to the individual in front of us, and the likelihood of their feeling valued in exchange is very probable. And if not, we at least know we did our part.
How can we get better at the name game?
My dad is an avid association player, linking a person’s name to something that will help him better remember it. I, myself, use the powerful principle that is the rule of three. Both are effective tools.
As we meet new people, let’s attempt these: Try to associate or try repeating the person’s name three times within the conversation. As further questions are asked, address them by their name before doing so or respond using their name when answering questions. This might feel a little forced at first, but once our mouths and minds have repeated it aloud three times, the connection in our brains to the person is more strongly constructed.
If we really want to one up ourselves, then before asking someone the all too familiar, “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” ask if they know what their name means. This helps place our focus on the other person while also inviting our new friend to process their name as it correlates to their individual journey. If your new friend doesn’t know what their name means, then this is where our handy smart phones become appropriately useful.
Don’t you like to go where everybody knows your name?
Whether in line at the grocery store or dining out at a restaurant, look or ask for a name. Use it while thanking a person for their help. It is a small and simple way to acknowledge their humanity. When we use names, we reinforce to another human being that they are valued and seen, apart from their service to us. There is a gregariousness found here which inherently offers respect to the other person.
[Using someone’s name] is a small and simple way to acknowledge their humanity.
Names are paramount. Each one of us is a living, breathing story, and each of our stories has a title. Let us choose to value one another as such, being attentive to remember those titles and pay homage to one another’s stories.