Have you ever noticed that even in a crowded, noisy room you have an amazing ability to hear your name if it’s mentioned in conversation several feet away? Think about it–your first name is one of the few things in your life that has been with you since your parents tried to communicate with you as a baby. That makes it a huge part of who you are.
Whether it’s a friend or acquaintance, customer or colleague, addressing that person by name during conversation is a surefire way to make sure you have their positive, undivided attention, and makes them feel connected and valued.
It was 23 years ago, yet I distinctly remember when John, now my husband, used my name in an encounter a couple of weeks after we had first briefly met. Because my name is uncommon and hard to pronounce, people who don’t know me well tend to not say my name, and therefore, I am positively drawn to people who remember it and use it.
Last year I decided to do an experiment. When I was at the grocery store, bank, a restaurant, etc. I would read the name badge of the person who waited on me and addressed them by name when I spoke to them. The reactions I got were interesting. I noticed a little warmth sweep across their face with pleasant eye contact, many times a smile, and often friendlier service. The most surprising response was from a young cashier at Walmart who looked at me and said, “You said my name.” I asked, “yes, why do you look surprised?” He answered, “Because no one ever says my name.” Wow. When you use a person’s name in this context, you become more than just a routine customer encounter.
As Dale Carnegie so aptly states in How To Win Friends and Influence People, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”