I like to use people’s names when I’m speaking with them.
I’m not a natural with names. It’s an effort. But, I think, a worthwhile one.
When someone says, “Hi! My name is Fran,” that half-second when they give their name gets my total attention. If I didn’t catch the name, I’ll ask for it again. Then I’ll use it a few times to try and cement it in my memory.
So, why? Two reasons.
Using Fran’s name grounds me in the conversation I’m having with her. This isn’t a generic, copy-and-paste exchange with Joe Anybody. This is a distinct moment I’ve got here with Fran. So using her name helps ward off the tendency to say pat, unthinking things or stuff in rote silence-fillers. It feels disrespectful somehow.
But the other reason is this: It’s my attempt to acknowledge the person before me. To let them know I see them. Or am trying to.
It’s small and brief, just a half-second way to honor the fellow human we’re with.
But of all the things we can do with a half-second, honoring the person before us seems like a worthwhile one.