Let’s get really personal: it’s all in a name!

“Hi there Mr Flude, it’s Llewellyn calling from Click Energy. Have I called at a good time?”

“Hi, yes.”

“Great, well the reason for my call is…”

[conversation continues]

“Thanks for your help today, umm…Sorry, what was your name again?”

The other day I caught myself out on how rude I had been on the phone to a customer service official as I was possibly trying to do too many things at the same time – ever done that?! Of course you have – and if so, read my previous blog about task-switching – but that is not the point of this blog post today.

I had missed two golden opportunities in my little dialogue with Llewellyn.

The first is asking how his day was going. Such a simple thing to do, but how often do we avoid that when speaking with someone we don’t know personally? In fact, we probably skip it with people we do know! But manners cost nothing, they really don’t.

The second was recalling his name.


Our names personify us

A name is everything to us. It is our identity, our connection point to others and without it, we would have no unique identifier. It’s our very own calling card.

When someone says your name, your immediate reaction is to look up. And subconsciously, we warm to a person who calls us by our names when we least expect it. The context is important of course, especially when it’s your mum/wife/partner/boss reprimanding you for one of your misdemeanours!


How could I have conversed differently?

heisenberg-say-my-nameImagine if the above conversation had gone like this:

“Hi there Mr Flude, it’s Llewellyn calling from Click Energy. Have I called at a good time?”

“Hi Llewellyn, absolutely! How is your day going?” (note: smile on the phone as the other person can pick up your good mood)

“Great thanks and you, Mr Flude?”

“Please call me Rob. It’s been awesome thanks, Llewellyn (note: even if it hasn’t been!). You have an interesting name. It’s not one you hear every day. Well, maybe you do of course!”

“Haha, yes, it is different!”

“Well, different is good. So, Llewellyn, you said you are ringing from Click Energy?”

“Yes, Rob. The reason for my call is…”

[conversation continues and I now comfortably use his name without it being weird]

“Thanks for your help today, Llewellyn. Have a great evening.”


Does it have to be a unique name to have this conversation?

Of course not, but the golden rule is to try to repeat the person’s name 3 times within the first minute of you meeting them or talking to them, and then try think of a link to you that will help you remember it. In the above example, being part-Welsh, Llewellyn is easy as it makes me think of a former rugby player for Wales who had that surname. I could even throw that into the conversation, even if he has no interest in rugby.

If it’s not a unique name, there are a thousand different ways you could relate his name to something. It could be the name of a relative, best friend, sports hero, actor, boss, etc. The goal is to connect, even if they have phoned you for something that they want (eg. your credit card details).

Also, don’t use it at every junction, otherwise you really will sound like an infomercial or worse, insincere.


Why is using someone’s name so important?

The reasons are endless, but here are some specifics:

  • Using someone’s name allows you to consciously and subconsciously connect with them, and them to you;
  • You don’t have to ask for their name at the end, which is often awkward;
  • If you are going to let them down by declining their offer, it’s a softer blow to their ego (Imagine what impact that could have on their day if they hate their job? They might even think it is worth it just because they speak to nice people!);
  • If you want to raise any objections or complain, they are far more likely to be willing to help you;
  • It’s a good habit for connecting with people when you need something from them;
  • When someone forgets your name, how does it make you feel? Not good!


Most importantly, isn’t it just worth it being nice to people, especially people just trying to do their jobs, who are more than likely not the decision-makers? Using peoples’ names connects you to another human being in ways that go beyond what’s obvious.

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