What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That famous quote comes from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Juliet utters that line to Romeo as she makes the point that no matter his name (he was a Montague and his family was at odds with Juliet’s family, the Capulets) he is still the man she loves.

It’s a well-known line that does contain an element of truth because the rose would smell every bit as sweet no matter what we called it. However, if we renamed the rose something like “The Dogcrap Flower,” very few people would be willing to even sniff it.

This understanding came to light recently when I approached an individual about an idea I had. I wanted to rename something but I knew this person was heavily invested in the current name. Here’s how I approached the conversation:

Me – Have you ever had Patagonian Toothfish?

Other – (making an “ewe gross” sound) No, I

don’t think I have. Sounds kind of gross.

Me – Have you tried Chilean Seabass?

Other – Yes, I love it.

Me – Did you know they’re the same thing? (I hear a chuckle). Nobody was buying Patagonian Toothfish because it sounds bad so they renamed it Chilean Seabass in the 1970s. I bring this up because I think we have a naming problem.

From there I described the problem and the other person agreed rather quickly to explore the name change.

Aside from an example like that, names, words and labels matter a lot! And it doesn’t always matter what the dictionary has to say about what a word means because ultimately we give meaning to words. Understanding your audience and their interpretation of words is what matters most. Here are a few examples.

Thug – a violent criminal (Merriam-Webster)

We heard this word used repeatedly in connection with the recent Baltimore riots. It’s true that those who looted and destroyed were violent criminals. However, many people came down hard on those who used the word – including Baltimore’s mayor and President Obama (both African-American) – because in society the word has become more closely associated with African-Americans. There was a time when the word was used to describe Irish immigrant criminals, gangsters in the 1920s and 1930s, and even former Detroit Piston center Bill Lambier. But the connotation in today’s media is so heavily skewed towards African-Americans that it’s becoming a race-related word.

Niggardly – hating to spend money, very small amount (Merriam-Webster)

In 1999 David Howard used this word when referring to the budget for Washington D.C. and was relieved of his position after a race-related complaint. Eventually he took a different position working for the city and said he learned from the incident.

Bastard – a person born to parents not married to each other (

We can probably all think of someone we know who was born to parents who never married. If you used this word to describe that someone you’d probably get popped in the mouth or get an earful of condemnation for being insensitive. Most people in that situation would have no problem talking about their parents never marrying but would not take kindly to the label.

There was an urban legend about the Chevy Nova not selling in Spanish speaking countries because in Spanish Nova means “no go.” There was no truth to the story but it too belies the point that a name can have a profound impact on the listener.

What does this have to do with persuasion? A lot! Understanding your audience – what words will help and what words will offend – and keeping in mind your ultimate goal will help you craft your persuasive message.

Do we want to see race relations improve in this country? I believe the vast majority of people would say yes.

Tossing around the word thug, when you know how it will be perceived, is not something a smart persuader would do. If an African-American mayor and president can’t avoid controversy then neither will you.

Budgets may be tight but the wise persuader would not use the word niggardly – no matter how the dictionary defines it – because they realize someone will be offended and their message will be lost.

If you want to help tackle the issue of children being born out of wedlock you best not refer to those children as bastards because you’ll offend so many people that your desire to help and good ideas will never be heard.

Yes, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet but rename it incorrectly and almost nobody will take a sniff. The words we use can make all the difference so make sure your words work for you, not against you.

Remember Their Name – The “How To”

This week is a guest post from Bob Fenner. I met Bob several years ago when he was a student at Ohio University. He hosted the table where I was sitting with coworkers while attending the annual Sales Symposium put on by students from the Sales Centre.

Upon graduating Bob relocated to Silicon Valley to pursue a career in IT Sales with two suitcases and a positive attitude. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he moved to California without any friends or family in the area and has been able to meet some incredible people along the way. He started his career in Inside Sales at Data Domain, now an EMC company, in the computer hardware industry.

He currently works for Merced Systems in Redwood City, California. Merced is the leading provider of Sales & Service Performance Management solutions. Bob started with Merced Systems this past August and is currently focused on building the Inside Sales team while maintaining responsibility for supporting regional sales teams in the Western US. Both are daunting tasks considering Merced Systems was recently named to the “Top 100 Fastest Growing Software Companies” by Inc. Magazine and to the ”500 Fastest Growing Technology Companies” in the US by Deloitte.

One of Bob’s favorite parts of living in California is exploring the surrounding areas including San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Wine Country, and the coast. He also told me he likes the fact that the weather is a little better than Ohio. Bob recently started as an Assistant Wrestling Coach at a local high school in California.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”

Remember Their Name – The “How To”

In Brian’s previous post, A Rose by Any Other Name, he writes that “names in fact do matter” and I am convinced that remembering names is a critical piece to building a successful network. I believe it is even more important to remember a person’s name the second time you run into them.

After reading Brian’s post, I began to think of how often I hear people say, “I am terrible at remembering names!” Here are a few tips I use to remember names during a first encounter in a professional setting:

  • Always repeat a person’s name when you first meet them to make sure you have it correct
  • Use their name throughout the conversation
  • Exchange business cards after a meaningful conversation

Take notes on the back of their business card on a few key points from your conversation (i.e., Steelers fan, wife and 1 daughter, handles sales training at State Auto)

Here are a few tips I use to remember names after I meet potential business connections:

  • Send them a follow up email – let me guess, you don’t know their email and are kicking yourself for not getting their business card. In my experience, 90% of people I connect with have emails with one of following aliases –,, or
  • Keep the email short and to the point. I like to mention it was great to meet them; I enjoyed hearing about a certain aspect in our conversation, and ask them to commit to a next step
  • Send it as soon as you have email access – do not wait to send your follow up email days or weeks later

My mother used to force me to write “Thank You” notes to every family member I ever received a gift from and I used to hate it. Now I want to say “Thank You” to her for forcing such a good habit that has paid off for me so far in my business career.

Follow up emails are a key to remembering a contact’s name and showing them you sincerely enjoyed meeting them. As Keith Ferrazzi, in his book Never Eat Alone, in the chapter “Follow Up or Fail,” writes, “The fact is, most people don’t follow up very well, if at all. Good follow-up alone elevates you above 95% of your peers. The follow-up is the hammer and nails of your networking tool kit.”

  • Add the person on LinkedIn after meeting them with a personal message. If I can’t instantly match a category we have in common for connecting, I select “Friend” or “Other” and enter the work email address

Here are tips for when you see the person again:

  • I always introduce my full name when I see someone for the second time to cover for people who haven’t done their homework
  • If all of my tips have still not led me to remember the name, I will inconspicuously ask other people in the room what their name is before we greet again
  • I greet them with a big smile, firm handshake, and say “Hi Brian, Bob Fenner, it is great to see you again! How is your family doing?”

I hope these tips serve you well and help you become better at remembering names. Don’t forget, “The sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own name.”

Bob Fenner

A Rose by Any Other Name

Probably one of the most famous lines ever penned was from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The saying conveys this – what really matters is what something is, not what we call it. It’s true that a rose would smell no different had we called it anything else.

But, names do matter, even if they don’t change the thing being described, because they change us and how we think and respond. Here’s a nice example; Chilean Sea Bass, a popular dish, wasn’t such a hot seller when it was referred to by its real name, the Patagonian Toothfish. That name’s not too appealing and fish eaters didn’t think so either. Ah, but sales took a turn for the better when it was renamed because Chilean Sea Bass sounds interesting and exotic.
Let’s focus on Dale Carnegie now because he said, “The sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own name.” We’ve all met people who wish they’d have been given a different name. Johnny Cash made that notion famous when he sang about A Boy Named Sue. However, despite complaining, most people who wish they had a different name will never change their name.
Making it a point to use someone’s name can help you win friends and influence people for lots of reasons.
Most people get a sense of importance when their name is used. This makes me think about my college days when I worked as a valet a Muirfield Village Golf Club, the place where Jack Nicklaus hosts The Memorial Tournament each year. One summer a car pulled up and as I opened the door one of Jack’s very close friends, a founding member of the golf course, got out of the car and what he did next I’ll never forget – he simply said, “Thanks, Brian.”
As I type this I still remember how this important man, Jack Nicklaus’ friend, using my name made me gasp a little. I couldn’t believe he knew who I was. Then I noticed my name badge, the one worn by all valets. But that didn’t change the reality of how I felt and that I still remember it 25 years later!
If you want to make someone feel important, maybe even make their day, try using their name. Give it a shot next time you’re checking out at the grocery store or use your server’s name when you eat out next time. I bet you’ll also get better service in both instances.
Using another person’s name also creates sense of relationship. Once when I was traveling I stopped in a TGI Friday’s for dinner. The server behind the bar came over, said, “Hi, I’m Ron. What’s your name?” Then he stuck out his hand to shake mine. As we shook I told him my name and he replied, “Brian, I’ll be your server tonight. If you need anything just let me know.”
Each time Ron came by to check on me it was, “How is everything, Brian?” or, “Can I get you another beer Brian?” Whenever he addressed me it was by name. So there I was in a different city, sitting in a restaurant where I didn’t know anyone but I felt like Ron and I were friends. I have to believe he enjoyed his job a little more because he felt like he was waiting on friends. And I’m sure he got much better tips too because he engaged Liking.
One more reason to use people’s name is simply this; it gets their attention. Imagine you’re at a crowded event where there’s lots of background noise and talk going on. You’re not paying any particular attention until you hear your name. It’s amazing how good your listening becomes at that point as you try to figure out if it’s you someone is talking about.
This applies to email too. Several years ago I sent an email to about 300 people who’d been through some training I’d conducted. In the email I asked for some success stories but got none! I didn’t hang my head and think the training was ineffective because I knew it was good stuff. I concluded the culprit was a psychological phenomenon known as “diffusion of responsibility.” Because my email wasn’t addressed to anyone in particular, everyone thought someone else would respond and ultimately no one did.
So after about a week of no replies I changed my method. The next communication was a “personalized” email. Using the Microsoft mail merge feature I simply included people’s first names from my training database. Rather than print letters I merged into an email so 300 separate emails went out in the span of about two minutes. Each person’s name was at the top and I asked a question about the training. The result – within a week I had 125 replies and got dozens of great success stories! Taking away the impersonal nature and including a question was all it took.
So to quote Dale Carnegie, “Remember their name,” because this engages Liking and builds relationships.
Have you found it to be the case that you feel and act differently when people use your name? Have you seen people respond differently to you when you use their name? If you answered “yes” to yourself on either of those leave a comment below so we can learn more.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”


Franzese or Frazetta: Do Names Really Matter?

I had a post all ready to go for this week but then I got really inspired by a friend, Michael Franzese. If that name sounds familiar it’s because you might have seen his drawing and recall that I mentioned him in my post three weeks ago titled, “Is Persuasion Manipulation?” He drew the picture of one man manipulating, wrestling the other to the ground.

Michael and I went to high school together but I feel like I know him much better now because of Facebook and his blog. He starting writing a blog called Franzeseinklings with the goal of 100 barbarian drawings and posts in 100 days. During my bodybuilding days in the ‘80s I was into Conan the Barbarian because of Arnold Schwarzenegger but other than that didn’t have much interest in those guys. But, after seeing Michael’s work and reading his posts I became a fan. You have to check him out because the artwork is very cool and I get a kick out of reading his posts each day. As you might guess, all of this week’s artwork is Michael’s doing.

So what’s Franzeseinklings have to do with influence? In his September 8 post, Michael mentioned his favorite illustrator, “the great Frank Frazetta.” He wrote about getting to meet the man he considered a hero. Take another look at that name — Frazetta. Looks a lot like Franzese doesn’t it? Could that be some of the attraction for Franzese to Frazetta’s artwork?

I shot an email over to Michael with an article from the Inside Influence Report that detailed the phenomenon of names then called him to talk about this post. He said the more he thought about it and how his mind worked the more he thought it was probably true. He said another of his favorite artists is Michelangelo. Michael likes Michelangelo…hmm, see a trend here?

I can’t take credit for anything other than being alert when it comes to this name thing. If you pick up a copy of Yes! 50 Scientifically Prove Ways to Be Persuasive, you can read about all this name stuff in chapters 29 and 30. Here’s the basic gist — we tend to like people with names that look or sound similar to our own. The psychological term for that is “implicit egotism.” After all, how could someone with your name be some kind of jerk?
Can you think of a time when you met someone with your same name where you instantly liked them? I sure can! We might joke about it being due to the name but it’s no joke because there are statistics to back up that claim.
Here’s another thing worth mentioning, not only do we like them; it makes us more compliant when they ask us to do things. So your name is Carlos and the salesman is Karl, what difference does that really make? Statistically Carlos will probably buy more from Karl than he would from Pete or Bill or someone else with a name that’s not similar because he feels a connection when implicit egotism is at work.
This is more than just names and people; it extends to things like where you live, the company you work for and the career you choose. Statistically Dennis is more likely to become a dentist than Jerry or Walter. If you doubt that pick up Yes! 50 Scientifically Prove Ways to Be Persuasive, turn to page 128 and read about the study for yourself. I’m not saying everyone named Dennis is destined to be a dentist anymore than Lawrence will become a lawyer or Mary will live in Marysville but they have a higher likelihood of that happening than people with names wholly unrelated to those professions or places.
Believe me, when Jane and I were looking for new countertops, it didn’t escape my notice that the salesman’s name was Dan Mason. I kid you not; Dan Mason worked as a salesman for a company that sold marble countertops. Oh gee, what a coincidence!
One more story to illustrate the point; Scott, the guy who gives my wife golf lessons (great instructor, you should see her game!) worked at a driving range alongside his ex-wife Pia. Not many people could work with their former spouse but Scott and Pia got along great. In fact, they’d both tell you they get along better as friends than they did as spouses. As I got to know Scott I noticed he drove a Kia. Do you see where I’m going with this? I told him about the name study and said, “I see you drive a Kia and your ex-wife’s name is Pia. I think there’s still something there.” He insisted there wasn’t and a week later the Kia was gone and Scott was driving a Hyundai. Point made!
Most people will insist there’s nothing to this but that’s because this is all going on in the subconscious. The statistics don’t lie and neither did your grade school teacher so I’ll end with a song many of you probably sang as youngsters. It’s about two friends with the same name.
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,

His name is my name too.
Whenever we go out,

The people always shout,
There goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.
Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah
One last thing, give Franzeseinklings a look and follow.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”