There are roughly 8 billion people on the planet. You can categorize them in all kinds of ways. You can group them by their gender, smell, like or dislike of mushrooms, or their opinion on various TikTok dances.
But I find it most valuable to sort people into 2 simple groups:
- Those whose names I know.
- Those whose names I don’t know.
One of my most important goals here on Planet #3 is to shift as many people as possible from Group 2 to Group 1. Because real relationships don’t begin until you exchange names.
For most of my life, I have used a very simple introductory technique. During a conversation or in response to awkward proximity, I traditionally made the following statement:
‘My name is Adam.‘
While I have used this line thousands of times, I have not been very happy with the results. And if you are going to use a technique thousands of times, you should really like the results.
The 2 main problems with this approach
First, the other person doesn’t always know what to do next. I am always amazed when I share my name with another person and they don’t respond by sharing their name with me. It feels like I have whacked the front of their knee with a small rubber-headed mallet, and their foot did not kick forward. Which makes me think there is something wrong with their wiring.
The other problem with my introduction technique is that the name retention rate is fairly low. In other words, The other person doesn’t absorb or remember that my name is Adam nearly as often as you might expect. Especially given the fact that I just told them my name right to their face.
However, I read Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s book Extreme Ownership. So I find it useful to explore how I am at fault for the lower-than-expected retention rate. As a result, I have radically transformed my standard introductory technique. Today, when I want to get to know someone better, I use the following new line, that I wrote myself:
‘What is your name?‘
The results from this approach have been amazing. I have found that nearly everyone knows their own name and is willing to share it when prompted using this technique.
But wait, there’s more!
I have also found that far more people remember my name when I use this technique, as measured by a name-based goodbye at the end of our conversations, and first-name greetings on follow-up encounters.
Contributing Success Factors
When I ask you for your name, you know the answer and are prepared to share it. I am also fully prepared to receive your name because I just asked you for it.
However, the real magic of this technique comes in Phase 2 of Technique 2.
In Technique 1, the receiver is not always ready to absorb my name. While well-intentioned, my initial name share could come in hot, like a ball thrown at someone when they didn’t have their hands up and ready to protect their nose.
In Phase 2 of Technique 2, when the other person asks to know your name they are prepared to receive the answer. So when they hear your name they already have created a space for it to live in their brain. It might be on a shelf, hanging on a wall, or on a comfy bean bag chair, depending on how the other person has decorated the namespace in their brain. But because that space was prepared before you shared your name it is far more likely to be found later when the person needs or wants it.
For more successful name exchanges ask for the other person’s name first. This sequence enables both parties to be best prepared to remember the other’s name. Plus, it feels fun to have someone ask ‘what’s your name?’ Because in the movies, that’s the question the gatekeepers always ask right before they give the main character their big break.
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