Using a person’s name in conversation

Using a person’s name in conversation creates a culture of respect, recognition and consideration for the discussion. Here are a few considerations for using a person’s name.

Your name is what people call you, right? It’s part of your identity, a label, a saying. Your name is your identity, how you’re recognized and what you respond to. In this two-part article series, we’re going to discover the importance of using a person’s name and some tricks to remembering names.

Most people put a lot of value in their name, and they should! It’s part of who they are. A famous quote from Dale Carnegie is, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” What about seeing the value in using another person’s name? As much as we like to be recognized and called by our name, it’s important we use others’ names as much as possible too.

Using a person’s name in conversation has several benefits. It creates a culture of respect, recognition and consideration for the discussion. That’s so important because if you consider a conversation that goes in the opposite direction, individuals may be left wondering if they should have even been talking to that person.

When using someone’s name, there are a few considerations you may want to take according to Changing Minds:

  • Acknowledge identify. A person’s name is part of who they are. Using their name is like handling the person, so be careful with it.
  • Grab attention. Using someone’s name can be an effective way of breaking into conversation. It can also be effective when a person seems distracted or has disappeared off into their own head.
  • Formal and informal. Using a formal name is often associated with obedience and can be seen as a sign of respect. However, you must watch for an adverse reaction and understand that using a formal name may cause an adverse reaction. Informal usage of a name is typically more casual and friendly, but be warned that using an informal name may cause you to be seen as presumptuous. A suggested approach is to ask the person what they preferred to be called, thus gaining permission to use the form of their name they prefer.
  • Beware of overdoing it. Be careful when using a person’s name. If you use it too much, you may appear that you’re trying to manipulate them, which is likely to have the reserve effect you desired.

Using someone’s name, and using it correctly, is a skill that can be practiced. Consciously acknowledge that it’s a skill you want to work on and then ask a family member, friend or colleague to help you by listening to you talk and providing you with constructive feedback. This will take self-motivation, self-discipline, resilience, communication and social skills. Over time, not only will you be able to effectively use a person’s name in conversation, you may inspire them to want to work on the same skill!

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