Know their name

September 2, 2019 · Print This Article

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.

Dale Carnegie wasn’t wrong when he said these words. As a man who taught thousands in the business world about better interpersonal skills, he knew what he was talking about. If there’s one word that we can pick out of a cacophony of sound, it’s our name. Our ears are uniquely tuned to it; when we hear it, our attention turns to the source.

Today, I returned to school for that first teachers day back and the customary rally-the-troops speech from the head teacher. “I want this to be a school where every student is known individually”, our head said, “and where each student is known by their name”. It was a good speech even with the old clichés!

I reflected on it: do I know the names of all my students? Probably not. But I can afford myself a little flexibility working in one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in London. It has children’s names with some of the most exotic syllables I know and which are somewhat alien to my native tongue.

That said, why should we make the effort to learn and know the names of those we meet?

As a teacher, you quickly learn the power of knowing a name. Referring to someone by name instantaneously connects you with that person. When you refer to someone by their name, especially if you’ve just met them, they feel known by you, and as a result closer to you, even if this is just perceived.

But it goes further than this. Taking the time to learn the most personal (and important) word in a person’s dictionary means you are treating them as an individual, worthy of your attention and time. You are subconsciously placing value on them. And, most likely, they will want to do the same back.

Maybe you work in a big team, or in a school, or you are about to enter an educational setting, and you’ve read this and think to yourself – as so many do – but I’m bad at learning names. The truth is, everyone is but there are things you can to help yourself.

When meeting someone for the first time, say their name three times in your initial conversation. My favourite method is to remember a name by associating it with something familiar – syllables for symbols. Or, finally, write a name down as soon as you can – this gives you a mental picture when trying to remember it next time.

This week let’s be that person who knows everyone by name because everyone we meet matters.

By the way, did you know that God knows you by name? Interesting thought, that!

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