Friday, June 7, 2024

Sorry, What Was Your Name Again?

Dale Carnegie - in his 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People - wrote that "a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." 

Too often, though, I find myself forgetting people's names at various functions and gatherings. This is not only embarrassing for me, but insulting to the person on the receiving end of my lapsed memory. 

Your name is your identity. 

As Alan Ehrenhalt once told me, "At the pharmacy that I go to, I know the names of all of the technicians, and they know my name, and I actually find that rather comforting." 

One thing that can help facilitate name-to-name, weak-tie relationships are name badges. This is something that Starbucks understands. 

Sherry Turkle, in her book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, writes:

When Starbucks got into financial trouble, it rebuilt its brand with seemingly small changes, some of which highlighted the importance of conversations between customers and baristas. Every employee wore a name badge, and counters were lowered so that it was easier to strike up a conversation. 

But name badges, while useful in some settings, are unlikely to become quotidian. I can't imagine walking down the streets of Midtown Manhattan with a sticker reading, "HELLO, my name is Frank." 

What might be more practical, is to just ask. And when someone tells you their name, do your best to try and remember it. 

Jazz guitarist Jimmy Raney, during a 1993 master class at the University of Louisville, made an interesting parallel between remembering chords and "licks," and remembering people's names:

Take what you like and play it on your instrument. There's some kind of a connection there. I find that if I can't remember someone's name, if I write it down, I'll never forget it. If you have a friend, and you've met their wife forty times, but every time you call him you can't remember his wife's name... All I have to do is write it down, and I'll never have to look at it. 

This is a neat trick. 

I also find it helpful, when someone introduces themselves to you, to repeat their name at least ten times in your head. In fact, it helps if you say it aloud. Though, that may make you seem a bit... unstable.


Jim: Hello, my name is Jim. 

Bill: Nice to meet you, Jim! Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim. Jim. Got it!

Anyway, just some food for thought!

I have much growth to do here. Tips/suggestions are welcome! 




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