I used to be HORRIBLE with names. Or at least that’s what I told myself.
I never tried because I’d feel guilty whenever I did and failed. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That is until a couple years ago.
As fate would have it, my co-worker decided that his new year’s resolution would be to try and remember names. I decided to join him in this quest. I figured, if we were doing it together, it’d raise my level of accountability and thus become a conscious effort.
I remember the moment this lesson sinked in for me.
I was on a work trip in Wisconsin for an ice-fishing retreat. My co-worker and I stopped at the Piggly Wiggly to stock up on victuals for the weekend. As we checked out, I noticed the cashier had her nametag on.
She didn’t seem to be having a particularly good or bad day.
It appeared to be one of those days that just pass by and nothing memorable occurs.
I saw this as an easy opportunity to work on my resolution.
So, I addressed her by name – once to greet her and at the end to thank her for her help.
It was a simple act.
There are fleeting moments in life where something you do, intentionally or without thinking, can have a visible positive impact on a fellow human – it could be holding the door open or returning a wallet you found in the street. These instances, big or small, may not be remembered. But in the moment, they catch the person off gaurd and appear to restore a small bit of their faith in humanity.
That’s exactly what this interaction was.
Her entire energy changed. I was amazed by how she lit up with appreciation.
She instantly smiled and became present, which opened the door for playful banter between us. For that moment, she didn’t see me as customer nor I her as cashier, but we we saw each other as people.
That’s the power of a name.
It signals to the other person that they’re worth remembering.
That they matter.
Addressing a person by name demonstrates you see them as a living, breathing human and not just a cog in the interaction.
I changed my story that day about names.
More importantly, I learned that we have the power to rewrite the narratives the hold us back, no matter how big or small they may be.
Life is but the story we tell ourselves it is.