The power of names

I've been running a little experiment lately. I call people by their names instead of just saying "good morning" or "hey". The results have been interesting.

I used to say that I'm lousy with names. A lot of people say this. A while ago I decided to try to change that because I felt it was a failing. I remarked to some friends that when you call someone by name, a switch flips inside their head. For them, you move from a bin of people for whom they do not exist to a bin of people for whom they do exist. You acknowledge their specific existence. To never use someone's name is subtly, subliminally dehumanizing.

I was surprised at how many people's names I actually did know. I've made special effort for those people that always call me by name (that's you, Jauan). In one case, a slightly nervous fellow relaxed so much when I used his name that we ended up having a couple of extended conversations. I learned a lot.

Maybe it's my imagination, but I think people are looking at me differently. I prefer to believe they are.