In his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
There is no word that catches our attention more than our name. That’s why you can be in a noisy, crowded area, straining to listen to someone talk but all of a sudden if you hear your name you can easily tune into wherever it came from.
I share those insights because recently I had an experience because of my friend Loring Mellien, a.k.a. “Pud.” You might recall reading about Pud in a post about a month ago because of the joy he gets in helping others.
Something I’ve learned from observing Pud in the real world is the value of using people’s names. No matter where we are – a bar, restaurant, poolside talking to a DJ, on an Uber ride, Pud will always introduce himself and ask the other person’s name. Conversation instantly flows.
In my new role as Director of Learning at State Auto Insurance, I routinely walk into the building around 6:45 each morning. As I enter I see the same security guard behind a desk every day. He asks to see my ID badge, I ask how he’s doing, he asks how I am then I’m on my way to my office. Very generic stuff.
As I walked in not too long ago I wondered why I’d never bothered to ask his name since we see each other every day and there’s usually no one else around. I started to realize the more time passed the more awkward it would be to ask his name. After all, if a year went by it would be strange to finally ask, “What’s your name?” So I decided not to wait any longer. Taking a prompt from Pud I simply said, “I come in here every day and we say hi and it occurs to me I don’t know your name.” I stretched out my hand and said, “My name is Brian and you are?” He stood up with a smile on his face and said, “I’m Tom,” as he shook my hand. He looked genuinely happy and it made me wonder how many other people have bothered to ask him his name.
Later that day when he was in a different part of the building I waved from a distance and he smiled as he waved back. I’m sure things will be different every morning as I walk in now and that sometimes conversation will ensue instead of a simple hello.
Sharing this reminds me of a time when I was traveling many years ago. I went to Friday’s for dinner while in Nashville for business, sat at the bar with a copy of USA Today when all of a sudden the bartender said, “Hi, I’m Ryan,” sticking his hand out. He continued, “What’s your name?” I told him my name and noticed the whole evening felt different as he said, “How’s your food, Brian?” “Brian, need another beer?” “Thanks for coming in, Brian.” All of these phrases made me feel like a friend was waiting on me. It changed the experience for the good and his tip was better because of it.
Pretty simple stuff but like many simple things in life, we can either overlook them or get to a point where it seems weird or awkward to act on what we know we should do. Even though I teach this stuff it’s not always natural for me to be that outgoing. It takes effort whereas for some people it would take restraint not to be that outgoing. But the more I do it the easier it gets. A simple act like this will make your day better and make other people’s day better too. Not only that, you’ll meet some interesting people along the way and make some friends and that could come in handy down the road if you need a favor because it taps into the principle of liking.
So I challenge you this week – introduce yourself to strangers and ask their name. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.