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What's in a name?

Posted by netrix
Published on 23 October 2022

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Knowing a person's name says to them: 'You matter'.
Not knowing a person's name says: 'You don't matter'.
Getting a person's name wrong says: 'You really don't matter.'
Is that overstating it?
Probably not.  And certainly not if you are a trainer.

Years ago, I was part of an organization of many thousand individuals. I had no significant role in the organization.  I was one of the crowd, or so I assumed.
One day I passed the organisation's director on the street, and not only did he recognize me, but he also spoke to me by name and even asked after my wife, mentioning her by name as well.

I was amazed; I was flattered, and my sense of self-worth shot up. Surprise, surprise - in an instant, I was much better disposed toward that director, and my commitment to the organization instantly went up.

So a trainer, to remember the names of the people in the room, suggests to the students that they each have significance as individuals.
And if they feel better about themselves, they will contribute more to their training. And in the process, commit more to themselves! You may be thinking:
'but I am just not very good at remembering names.' I remember a man saying that out loud once, and his wife came back at him immediately:
'When they start to matter to you, you will remember their names!' Names are too important not to remember.

Like most of us, I have days when it seems I cannot even remember my own name. That is why I often go to some lengths to ensure I am clear about students' names.
Naturally, if you have a two hours session in a room with fifty people, it is unrealistic to remember everyone's name. In that case, I would probably not try at all: all or nothing!

However, usually before a training session, I will ask for a list of names.
I will look through them and see if I can put them into patterns to help me remember them:
maybe I can group three names that start with the same letter: Sally, Simon, and Sandra;
maybe there is a run of names that follow consecutive letters of the alphabet: Claire; David; Ed and Farouk;
maybe some go together to make a famous acronym or a set of initials:
Isabelle, Thomas, and Veronica for ITV;
maybe two names pair together to sound like a famous person or someone I know, such as:
David and Cameron; George and Michael; Lilly and Alan.

At this stage, I have not yet met the students, but by preparing the names in my head,
all I need to do when I meet the students on the next day is join each name to a face.
Then once everyone has sat down, I will write out the names discreetly on a piece of paper in seating order and keep it next to me.
Usually, I will remember the names anyway, but I do not want to risk going blank at a significant moment halfway through the day and losing the connection I have built with that person.

Two further observations:
name tags or name tents on the desk in front of the students are better than nothing, but all that says is that you can read, not care.
There is no substitute for going the extra mile and learning the names properly.

At the other extreme, I have seen trainers who turn retaining names virtually into a party trick,
which seems more about demonstrating how brilliant they are than suggesting how significant the student is.
I even remember from my musical days, an American conductor learning the names of the whole orchestra in the first half of the first rehearsal: we were very impressed.
We then went our separate ways and saw him again the next week:
he barely even recognized any of us.
It needs to be sincere.

It may take a few extra moments, but a person's name is so important to them.
Therefore, as a trainer, it should be very important to you.

Our train the trainer courses have been delivered the length and breadth of the UK, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

If you're looking to jump ahead in your training career, our train the trainer courses will spur your development.


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