The most valuable thing you can exchange with a stranger this holiday season.

Welcome to the heart of the holiday season. While it is a time full of great gatherings and good cheer, it is also a time full of encounters with perfect strangers. Like Balki Bartokomous and Larry Appleton.

I want you to try an experiment. Over the next 24 hours note how many people you encounter that you don’t know. I warn you, it may freak you out. Most of us live anonymously in a sea of strangers. They are everywhere. Like minivans. Yet we have become immune to these strangers that surround us. It’s as if they disappear when we ignore them. Like reality TV stars.

I was reminded of my own anonymity a few years ago at my gym. After I scanned my membership card, the guy who routinely works at the reception desk said, “Have a good day, man”.

A normal person would have just done what they were told and had a nice day. But instead, I asked the guy working the counter at Elite Sports Club, “What’s your name?’  He replied, ‘Andrew’. I said, ‘My name is Adam’ (that’s my go-to).  We shook hands. From then on, every time I saw Andrew we greeted each other by name. We had real conversations, instead of an awkward, “Hey-Man” relationship.

Insiders vs Outsiders

Everyone we encounter in business, at holiday gatherings and at the grocery store is either an Insider or an Outsider.  The difference is whether or not we know each other by name.  That sense of familiarity and friendship that can only develop once you know a person’s name makes an enormous difference on this planet, where we are so often surrounded by John and Jane Does (that was supposed to be Doe-plural. But it looks like does, doesn’t it?).

I think about names at work. At the advertising agency, The Weaponry, we encounter people when we visit our clients that we don’t have to know by name. The receptionists. The people who sit next to the conference rooms where we make too much noise.  The IT person who inevitably saves every presentation. But I want to meet them too. So I make a habit of introducing myself, by name. Suddenly we are not just people who see each other regularly. We become people who know each other, by name.

Key Takeaway

Convert more of those people you see or say hello to regularly into people you really know by name. It’s easy. Introduce yourself, by name and ask for their name in return. Write the names down. Remember them by starting a list with the names of people you meet and a description of who they are on your phone or in a notebook. Refer back to the list as necessary. The rewards are profound.  Just ask Andrew from Elite. Or Norm from Cheers.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Published by

Adam Albrecht

Adam Albrecht is the Founder and CEO of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. He believes the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind. He is the author of the book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? He also authors two blogs: the Adam Albrecht Blog and Dad Says. Daughter Says., a Daddy-Daughter blog he co-writes with his 16-year old daughter Ava. Adam can be reached at adam@theweaponry.com.

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