Why You Should Use People's Names When You Talk To Them

Why You Should Use People's Names When You Talk To Them

The power of using someone's name, to me, is the power of gaining more empathy, and compassion, and that's why I will continue to do so (excessively), and push others to do the same.

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It's not uncommon for one of my conversations to start like this:

"Hey Ben! I haven't seen you in a while. How are you doing, Ben?"

As you can see, I enjoy using people's first names excessively when I talk to them. I never really understood why I did it, just that it felt natural and polite. But, as I've been thinking more about it recently, but Dale Carnegie believed that a person's name is the sweetest sound they can hear. Think about the last time someone said your name, and they were actually talking to someone else in the vicinity. Usually, you feel surprised. When our parents were very proud, or very angry at us, they used our names. When someone wants our individual attention, they say our names. When someone wants to make you feel special, they say your name.

It isn't wrong to say that using someone's name is a form of flattery. To some degree, it is. But to say that's all it is underestimates its meaning and power.

Recently, I have been reading a "The Kingkiller Chronicle," a fantasy series by Patrick Rothfuss following an adventurer-musician named Kvothe. The first book of the series is called "The Name of the Wind," in which names are incredibly powerful and important: there is an entire art called "naming" where people can control objects by saying secret names. Although it's just a fantasy fiction book, Rothfuss harps on a theme that using people's names are powerful. The main character, Kvothe, is a famously high-profile and accomplished man, but changes his name to Kote to lose some of his power and influence and maintain a lower profile as an innkeeper. When people call him Kote, he internalizes and forgets about his deeds as an adventurer. When people call him Kvothe, the stories of the three books come back to him.

This theme of names invoking power is something I've subconsciously realized in my interactions with people: not only does using someone's name make them more engaged in the conversation, but using a name also makes you more invested in that person. You are focusing your attention on them. The teachers that were most invested and paid the most attention to you - they were often the ones that used your name the most.

I used to believe that I was a pretty awkward person, more of an introvert that didn't gain energy from being around people. But the truth is no one is a complete introvert or extrovert - everyone is somewhere in the middle, ranging different places in different contexts. I started to realize how fulfilling being among others, to me, is often also associated with how often I used their names, and conversely how often they used mine. When I would label myself as more "awkward," I wouldn't use names as often, but now I think differently.

Think about the most charismatic people you know of - people who can do anything and you will still like and follow them at the end of the day. Charisma is not what you do or say, but how you do it. Often, when someone we think of as "charismatic" enters a room of strangers, the first thing they'll do is ask everyone what their names are. Every time they say someone's name, and they say it often in repetition.

Every time you use someone's name, they feel important. They feel like they have a little more connection with you. They listen to what you have to say. I realize, too, that when my bosses or superiors tell me to do something, I'm significantly more invested into that thing when they ask "Ryan, can you do this for me?" rather than just when they ask "can you do this?"

Is using a someone's name, in some way, manipulation? Up to this point, it could be thought of that way. But I push back and reject that notion - because in using someone's name, you're forced to focus and think about them, too, and spend at least a couple more seconds caring, or at least thinking about that person than you would have if you didn't. And for a person you didn't know that well before, that's one more step towards not only remembering, but internalizing their name.

Using someone's name is powerful, to me, because it makes me learn more about them and think more about them. The power of using someone's name, to me, is the power of gaining more empathy, and compassion, and that's why I will continue to do so (excessively), and push others to do the same.

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To The Girl Who Still Has Her Mom This Christmas

To the girl with who is blessed enough to have her momma this Christmas. 
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     To the girl who is blessed enough to have her momma this Christmas, please remember to soak every last bit of it in. 

      Please remember to hug her so tight, that the way she smells is locked into your nose. Listen to all the stories you've heard a million times, like you've never heard a single one. Help her, even if it seems completely silly to you, help her mix that cake. Laugh, oh please laugh. Laugh at all her corky ways, at the way she mispronounces words, try's to be hip and use new found lingo, or how she cusses when she forgot to get the rolls out of the oven but quickly asks the Lord for forgiveness. Remember her laugh, etch it into your brain. Make her happy, if she wants to go riding around looking at Christmas lights down the same streets you've went for years, do it. Don't fuss, take her advice, agree to just disagree on things. It's not worth it. Most importantly, remind her over and over how much you love her. 

     Because unlike you, I'm not able to see my mom on Christmas. I'm not able to see her on birthdays, Thanksgiving, or any other occasion. My time with her is up. Death is the most permanent heartbreak. 

     How I long to hear her voice, her laugh. To feel her tight embrace. Smell, oh god, what I would give to just be able to smell her. I would absolutely love to go riding around for hours while she ohhs and ahhs at every single house we pass. If I had the opportunity I'd tell her just how much I love her, how I'm so thankful for all the sacrifices she made for me. In fact, I'm not sure I could ever tell her enough. 

      Some days I wake up and it still doesn't feel real. Others, I panic trying to remember exactly how she sounded. Because, I don't want to forget. I don't want to forget a single characteristic about her. Not one. 

     Take time, not just on holidays, or special occasions to be with your mom. Even if it's just you two piled up watching reruns of "The Little House on the Prairie", soak it in. 

    You only get one momma. Nobody could ever take her place. She's your rock. 

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The Next Chapter: A Poem

Her old room reflects reality and glimpses of high-school-era glory.

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Writer and recent divorcee

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the very subject

to some extent her brand

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A 40-year-old blocked experiment

exquisitely comedic

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she comes, stifled.


Attempts to recapture fall flat

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She persists in crying

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beats subtly borrowed from her love life, her world,

her troubled relationships.


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