The Power of Asking for a Name

Thu, Apr 11, 2024

I can teach you an honest to goodness magic trick. 

It’ll cost you literally nothing but a few seconds and pays dividends beyond your imagination. 

I’ve been using this for 20 years and am still in absolute awe of how effective it is and, even worse, how few people know or use it.

Ask for people’s names. 

In every situation: Ask for their name, use their name, and remember their name. Here’s the thing: People are so wildly, critically, and universally important. The fundamental ethos of every religion is the inherent value of each person as an individual.

And yet, we treat each other like vending machines as often as not. Think about this the next time you find yourself ordering food; over the phone or in person, it doesn’t matter. You step up to the counter and have the fastest, most sterile, least human conversation possible.

That might be fine for you, you only have to do that once. Think about the person behind the counter. They’re going to repeat that process a few hundred times. 

The next time this happens, take one second before you launch into your order and simply ask, “Hi, what’s your name?” 

They light up. I swear I have seen this make people cry. 

It instantly humanizes the process and reminds you (and them) of their importance. It’s so uncommon, some people are even taken aback and offer their name with a little trepidation, thinking they might be “in trouble.”

As soon as you learn their name, use it. It looks like this: “Hi, what’s your name?” | “Dan.” | “Hi Dan, I’d like a…” | Simple and magic. Use their name as often as you can organically, without making it weird. Don’t be surprised if they ask for your name. A conversation may even ensue.

When you start doing this, you’ll see the change in people immediately and it’ll make every experience you have wherever you go better. 

You’ll make real friends, get better service, be more welcomed, be remembered, and genuinely make people’s day just a little bit better. 

This isn’t a manipulation tactic (unless you’re actually using it to be manipulative, in which case I’ll pray for you). This is how we should treat each other. I just bring up the difference it’ll make to illustrate how important it is and how much everyone obviously hungers for it. It’s astounding.

This will also help you cultivate the skill of remembering names. 

You get so good at asking and then connecting names with faces, it starts to become instinctive. You’ll see how handy this is after you’ve been doing it for a while and then attend some sort of networking event.

I’ve only ever found one exception to this rule: Germany. Yes, the country. I’ve traveled extensively and Germany is the only place I’ve encountered where my attempt to use people’s names is met with outright negativity. Maybe someone of German persuasion can explain why? 

With that one exception aside, remember what Dale Carnegie said: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” If people are important to you (and I know they are) take the time to use their names. They’re worth it.

Your turn! What super simple “tactic” do you use that makes a massive difference in your or other people’s lives?