At lunch time today, I walked across the street from my office to head to my Toastmasters International regular club meeting. Due to scheduling conflicts, I haven’t been to the club for a couple of months. Prior to my relatively brief absence, I was a regular member of the club for the past three or four years. I even served as the President of the club for one year.
I pride myself on making sure everyone feels welcome. I try to introduce myself to guests and new members as they check out the club for the first few times, and I try to learn a little bit about each person. I also try to remember the names of the people who come to the meetings. Our club has added several new members the past few months which has made this a bigger challenge.
Today as members were gathering for the meeting, I mistakenly referred to one of the newer members by the wrong name. I had the best of intentions, but I completely botched his name. I tried to laugh it off and even joked about it, but I really felt bad about my blunder.
Last month, Isaac (my son) and I read through How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. (We’ve been intentionally reading through a book together each month as he prepares to make the transition from high school to college. That’s another topic for another time.) One of Carnegie’s principles for winning friends and influencing people is to remember people’s names. People like to hear their name. When you remember someone’s name it shows them you care and they matter. When you use someone’s name you establish and strengthen a human connection with the other person.
There’s a person at my church who is amazing at this. Her name is Terri Stone. Our church’s typical Sunday morning attendance is 1700-1800 which means there are probably around 2300-2500 who call our church home. I would bet that Terri knows 75% or more of the names of these attendees. Terri makes it a point to find out a person’s name when she meets them. She uses their name at least a few times during their initial conversation. The next time she sees the person, she goes out of her way to talk to the person she met a week (or longer) ago, and she uses their name every time. Many people I know at our church would tell you that Terri Stone made them feel welcome, and they would comment on how she remembered their names.
If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, take time to get to know them and to know their name. As Dale Carnegie says, you will provide the sweetest sound to their ears.
Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself, but you can bet I’ll get that guys name right the next time I see him at Toastmasters.
If you want to take it a little deeper for fun, what’s your middle name?