The Name Game – Remembering the Names of the People You Meet

Names are important. We name everything. Every object has a name. Trees and bushes aren’t the same. We grow the flowers and pull the weeds. We give proper names to our pets, farm animals and of course, our children. And for our entire life, our name is how we are known to ourselves and those around us.

My name is Kristine – with a K – but even if I don’t tell people it starts with a K, they still get confused.

Recently I went out with friends and the waitress volunteered to start a tab. She asked me for my name and I told her, “Kristine, with a K.” Feeling a little silly, I added, “I don’t really care how you spell it, as long as you say it right.”

And that’s the truth. I really don’t care how you spell it as long as you don’t call me Kristen, Kristina, or Christian. And, please, don’t shorten my name to Kris.

However, for some reason, when I say my name is Kristine, they write Kristen or Kristene, or something else that isn’t Christine or Kristine. It leaves me just baffled! I want to tell them: It’s just like gasoline, or trampoline. Maybe they’ve heard Kristin and it doesn’t matter what they write, because they’re remembering Kristin.

A large part of our identity is wrapped up in our name. It’s a large part of how we think of ourselves. For years, when I was in high school, people called me Kris. I was too embarrassed to tell them I didn’t like it; so I went along with it. After I left high school, I learned to tell people, “I prefer Kristine.” Most people have been fine with this simple statement. Some have informed me that, “It’s the same thing.” And a few have just missed the message altogether.

If you get someone’s name wrong and he or she corrects you, make sure that you remember that moment and that you say the name right from that point forward. There is nothing more awkward than having to correct someone every single time you see them. Or worse – Finding out months later that Carol’s name is actually Stephanie!

Can’t remember a name? Just ask. Even if you ask multiple times, it’s better than getting it wrong multiple times. Use a simple phrase like, “I’m so sorry, I can’t remember your name.” Chances are the person you’re speaking to doesn’t remember your name either. It gives you both a chance to remember.

When you meet someone, his or her name should be the first thing about them that you remember. But it often is not. Suzanne is not Susan. Susan might not be Suzie. Suzie might not be Sue. Robert may not be a Rob or a Robbie. Maybe he’s a Bob but not a Bobby. Have you ever thought that it was appropriate to call someone named Bob, Robbie? Of course not!

When someone introduces themselves by name, say it over and over in your head a few times. Look at that person in the face and connect the face with the name. Try to fit the name into conversation. Maybe ask, “How long have you worked at the Chemical Plant, John?” In this way, you make a connection for yourself between John and the chemical plant; but John also feels valued and feels that you are drawing him into the conversation. When you excuse yourself, say, “It was nice meeting you, John.” By doing this, you are saying, “You are important enough that I remember your name.”

Write it right. When you reach out to someone in print – take extra care to not misspell the name. I can’t tell you how many email replies and even Facebook replies have gotten my name wrong. And let’s tell the truth – Kristine is not a difficult name. When I get those replies, I admit that I judge the person sending them. It makes me feel like I don’t matter enough for them to look through the email or at the top of the Facebook Page and make sure to spell my name correctly. Some people even say that getting a name wrong is a microaggression. I’m not sure if I would agree with that – but when it’s so easy to get it right, I have to wonder a little if it could have been intentional to get it wrong.

Equally important, when you sign off of an email – make sure your own name is properly spelled and capitalized. Signing off with KRistine or Krisitne looks like you’re in too much of hurry to care about details. If you’re a business person, that little detail can mean the difference between landing work and missing out.

It’s been said that our names are the most important word in our worlds. Certainly, it is probably the most used word that we hear in our lifetimes.

When other people recognize us by name and get it right, it brightens our day and makes us feel important. So, make the effort to use names and call people by the right name!