Who knows your name – and who should?

I unexpectedly found myself humming the theme tune to the sitcom “Cheers”. For those of a certain age one of those TV programmes that seemed to be around forever and whose characters we knew well. The words of the theme included a message that going somewhere “where everybody knows your name” was a great antidote to life’s trials and tribulations.

There is something quite comforting about  people knowing your name though isn’t there?  I often find myself recognising someone’s face but not being able to remember their name  – and that bothers me. I am always flattered when someone I have met in the past uses my name which is why I think it is important.

There are some people who are really skilled at remembering names – and details – that mean that starting up a new conversation or continuing where you left off last time feels good.

Taking that into the workplace obviously your immediate boss should know your name and maybe their boss…but how far up the line does it go? I once met a senior team member of a big organisation I was working with in the lift. He introduced himself in the minute or so we shared that space with ” I am not sure we have met have we? I am…” He absolutely knew that I would know who he was but he still did it and I admired him for it.

Building any sort of relationship needs to start with learning what to call each other. I bristle a little when I get an email or letter addressed to me using my full “Sunday” name as I know that the sender does not know me and has not taken the time to find out about me.  When I am running workshops I ask participants to write the name they want me to use that day on a sticky label in big letters and I work hard at using it to get to know them . I got into the habit of doing this because when I am working with young people in schools the teacher will usually give me a class list with their register name which the young person rarely uses. I do occasionally get some bright spark who will decide that they want me to call them Beyonce or Mickey Mouse for the day – and if that’s what they put on their label that’s what I will use – but I feel it is important to get the names right at the start of a relationship.

One exercise I do at the start of a communication skills workshop is to get participants to say their name by putting one hand out to say their first name and the other to say their last. It is guaranteed to get folk giggling as it seems daft but it does have the effect of slowing things down so that we can hear those names. How many times has someone introduced themselves to you saying their name so quickly that you can’t remember it a few seconds later.  Surely as an introduction  we want people to remember it so we owe it to ourselves to make sure that it is clear.

A word of caution  though.   Some older folks still find it hard to have all and sundry calling them by their first names when in their generation even neighbours were Mr and Mrs so and so until they really got to know each other. Particularly in written communications – ( in my humble opinion – but maybe I am showing my age here ) just because you know someone’s first name does not really mean you have been given permission to start right off by using it.

Any tips on remembering names would be gratefully received!


PS On the other side of this.  I remember meeting a famous sportsman- who is a household name .  I didn’t really know what he looked like except from a distance and usually covered in mud. I introduced myself and he did the same back. When he said his name it clicked. He gave no indication that he was surprised that I did not know him. I admired him for that.