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What's My Name?
Dale Carnegie's famous work - How to Win Friends and Influence People - is based on one central idea: that every person wants to feel important. It's just the way God made us. So, if you can acknowledge that in relationships, you can quickly build trust into new relationships. How? Well, to start, learn and properly use people's names. It turns out, this is the quickest and easiest way to build rapport in any new relationship. To learn more about how that works, and to get some tips on how to do it better, check out today's episode: "What's My Name?"
Today's episode is titled, What's My Name? Now, I assure you, I'm not asking you if you know my name. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. It's okay either way. Instead, this is a quote. It represents a question that I get asked at least twice per year, probably more often than that, but I'm certain at least twice per year. And it is almost always terrifying. And let me explain on that. I am a gospel preacher, so a handful of times every year I get to travel around to other places and preach for the week and it's just a really great thing. I'm glad to get to do it. So usually I walk into the building on a Sunday morning and I know almost no one there, maybe just a small handful of people. Now here's the thing, they all know me, not because I'm important or anything like that, it's just they've been advertising the meeting for a month.
Everybody's got a flier on their fridge and there's the preacher's name and you know in the end all they have to remember is one guy's name. And they usually do pretty well with that. So on Sunday morning, all of these people extend their hand and they say, Hi Kris, thanks for coming. And then they tell me their name and I get dozens if not hundreds of names coming my way. And to be honest with you, I really do just forget almost all of them pretty much immediately. It takes a long time to learn names for me, but especially when they're coming in by the dozens. Now here's the thing, I've started to notice. As I said a couple of times a year, someone will walk through the door and extend their hand and say, hi, my name is, and they'll tell me their name and I'll say, great, Hey, it's nice to meet you.
And then on Sunday night they come back and they walk up to me and extend their hand and look me in the eye and they just say their name again. Like they're just confirming to me that I know their name. It is clearly important to them that I learn their name. And so they've said it to me now twice. And here's how this works. I still don't remember it, okay. There are dozens of people around and a lot of names to remember, so I don't remember. But in their mind they told me who they are. Their name is very important to them. It's a part of their core identity. We'll talk more about that in this episode. And so now they've gone above and beyond by telling it to me twice. So here's what happens on Monday night of the meeting, when I'm in the auditorium, before services start, that person inevitably will be standing in a crowd with four, five, six of their friends, and extend a hand to me and look me in the eye and utter this question, what's my name?
And then just wait on me to answer. Now here's a little information for you. If you worship regularly, and the preacher comes up to you and shake your hand and does not say your name, he is probably at a loss for it at the moment. And so if you come back with this question, uh, it's probably going to be a little bit awkward, but especially when I've only known the person for 24 hours. Now I'm usually really atrocious at this. I don't remember it. So I'll come back and say, okay, tell me one more time and I promise tomorrow night I'll walk right up to you and I'll greet you by name. And so they smile a little bit mainly because, you know, we're kind of talking about them and their name and they like that.
So then he or she will tell me their name for the third time and when I walk away, I go write it down somewhere and I practice it that night I say it over and over again and the next night before they even get near me, they're 30 feet away, I yell out his name: "Jack, Jack Thomas. It is awesome to see you man". And he smiles from ear to ear and like looks around to see if anybody else notice what just happened. People love it when you know their name. When I see that glisten in the eye, it always reminds me of what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes chapter seven. It's just one little line and yet it just carries all this weight. "A good name is better than a good ointment". Do you remember that? Ecclesiastes 7:1, the idea of your name, your identity, your reputation to be known, to be respected; that means more than almost anything else that you could have around you.
Something as simple... And I really want you to get this because as we get to the end of this episode, I'm going to challenge you with some tips and strategies to put this into place,... as simple as learning their name and the next time you see them, addressing them directly by name, can make a huge difference in the building of relationships. Really the development of trust and rapport can help you excel still more in a lot of different interactions, whether it be when you meet somebody at church services or somebody in your business or a new neighbor, it instantly changes what's going on because it makes them feel valuable and important and it connotes to them, it sends a message to them, that they matter and you care and people really love to feel like that.
In fact in the book, "how to win friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie Book, written in the Early 20th Century, a book that is world famous and that I've read a handful of times and I'm reading back through it now. In that book he talks about how pretty much everything he's going to tell you in the entire book about how to bring people close to you, how to convince them to your way of thinking, how to be influential in their lives: he'll tell you all of this stuff is going to tie to one basic human nature idea - Everyone, no matter who they are, everyone wants to feel like they are important. And let me just be clear here. He is not putting that in a negative light at all. The most humble, faithful, wonderful wife and mother who is a terrific servant of the king and her family. She also wants to feel important.
This is not just something for prideful, boastful people, all of us have within us that desire to be valued. The point that he makes in one of his early chapters is probably the easiest way to convey that and the clearest way to do it is to address people by name. It tells them you matter enough that I remember you and instead of talking about myself and using personal pronouns, I want to talk about you but not in some general, hey man, nice to meet you brother kind of way. I want to say your name because you're the topic of conversation. That means a lot to people. Let me give you a couple of direct quotes from the book that helped to convey this message a bit more clearly. He says, "remember that name and call it easily and you have paid a subtle and very effective compliment, but forget it or misspell it and you have placed yourself at a sharp disadvantage".
Now again, in a few minutes when we get to the end of this, I'll give you a couple of tips and strategies on how to do it better, but right now I hope that we're conveying the value of this practice. One thing that Carnegie says at the end of the chapter on this topic is this, "remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language". So consider that some this week. In fact, think about when people say your name, even if it's someone that you know well, they shake your hand or they come up and hug you and they look you in the eye and they start the conversation by addressing you by name. If you'll stop and think about that a minute as it's happening, you'll realize how that makes you feel. And part of this is just making other people feel like they matter and not just matter, but really making people feel that in that moment they are more important to you then you are.
We talked about the pronouns a couple of weeks ago about whether I'm always talking about me, myself and I, or if I'm able to turn the attention to you and make it about your needs. We're all familiar, and I know we've talked about this in previous episodes, but we're all familiar with what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians chapter two, he said, "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others". Now, what I always find interesting about that topic, being selfless and putting the focus on other people, is that most people consider themselves to be selfless. Most people will end a conversation, regardless of the pronouns of whose name was brought up, and they'll turn around and walk away thinking, I'm really a kind and giving and selfless person.
My point is that even if you are on the inside, they're going to need more than just your inner feelings to feel that connection. They're going to need to hear something or see something that makes them feel like they are the center of your attention at the moment, with that awesome servant's heart that we read about all throughout the New Testament. Well, I want to tell you about a couple of friends of mine who are incredible at this. When people hear their name, if they've only met them once or twice, when people hear their name, they think about them being a friendly person, a caring and considerate person, and part of what made it so was the value of the name and how these two men understood that. One of them is a friend of mine, his name is Max Dawson. He preaches in southeast Texas, and has been preaching really long time and he makes it a priority to learn your name and use it.
I watched him do this one Sunday. It was really great. He was at this congregation for a meeting. He was going to be preaching throughout the week and he walked up to the front row where there were about 15 teenagers sitting there and he went down the row one at a time and he asked each one for their name. They would say their name, he would repeat their name back to them. If it was a long or difficult name, he would ask them to spell it and then he would spell it. And he did that on Sunday morning with 15 kids. So that Sunday night when he comes back, he goes up to the front row and all those kids are sitting there again. And he walks through and just maybe two or three of them, he asks
them again now what was your name again? And they'll tell him and he'll say it back to them.
And then he just kind of went about his business and preached the sermon. Well, what I remember was that night, that first night, we all went over to someone's house for a young people Bible study, and before he started teaching, he stood up in front of all these kids and he worked his way from the left side of the room to the right and all the kids are sitting in different orders now than they were at services. And one at a time, he looked them in the eye and he said their name. And as he worked his way across the room, you could see these huge smiles forming on their faces and this anticipation as those on the right side of the room wondered when he got to them, if he would know who they were. He put in the work. He mentioned all their names.
He made zero mistakes. And how many of you know that those kids were like putty in his hands when he began teaching the word of God, they instantly felt valuable. They weren't just kids being preached to by some adult. This was a relationship. This man cared about them. He took interest in them and he was incredibly effective with those kids. Another example is a gospel preacher that I know, Brother Dee Bowman. We talked about him when we did the episode on Be Wise Small. He'd written some articles on that. Well, here was another area where he was tremendous at be wise small. At the congregation where he preaches, after services, he stands in the middle of the foyer and his wife, she's talking to friends, but she stays within decent proximity of him. And here's how this works. He already knows almost everyone who's there, but about 10% of the people are new or visiting and he doesn't know their name yet.
So when they walk up, he extends his hand and he says, hi, I'm Dee, nice to meet you. And they say their name. So the guy says, I'm Tom Rutledge. And he says, hi Tom, it's really great to have you here. Thanks for coming Tom. And then he turned around to his wife and he says, sweetie, could you come over here just a second. I want to introduce you to Tom. This is Tom Rutledge. Now, did you notice what he did there in that short period of time? He has said the man's first name four times and he said his last name at least once and oftentimes twice. He's using a device within his mind to repeat it in a way that's cordial, in a way that keeps focus on the other person. I mean this guy feels good about himself, he feels important, and he's even met Dee's wife.
It's a great interaction and again, Dee is now able to remember that name and recall it quickly the next time that they meet. So if you're looking to be someone who gets better at this, just try to remember how much this means to the other person and try out some of the tips and strategies that we learned from great men like Max and Dee. One of the things that I like to do here at the Lindale church is just try to say your name a couple of times in conversation and then keep a little notepad and pen in my pocket and turn around and write that down. And then I can take a look at it later. And remember it and hopefully make you feel welcome when I see you again. And none of this is contrived. None of it is fake. I really want you to feel valuable.
It's just hard to remember names, but Carnegie and others have shown us that, look, that's a really important thing to do and it's worth the effort. Again, I know that Christians love their neighbor. Jesus said to love your neighbor. We're just trying to demonstrate that in a way so that our neighbor can understand. Let me give you one final example. Just from today. Today, I visited a man in the hospital. I did not previously know the man. When I walked in, he was laying there in bed. I didn't even know his name. His wife was sitting next to him. I didn't know her name. Their granddaughter was sitting over by the window, I've never met the granddaughter. Now their daughter was there and I do know her. So that was the beginning point for me. And so I walk in and everybody introduces themselves and honestly I just wasn't paying very close attention.
So about five minutes into it, I realize I'm talking to four people and I did remember the little girl's name who was sitting by the window, but I only know half of the names in the room and I don't know the name of the man who just got out of surgery. And what really hit me was I'm about to lead a prayer. I mean, that's what we do at the end of this thing. Exactly, how is that prayer supposed to go: Lord, please help this person to get better? I mean, care about this guy. I care about his daughter, and his wife had been through some things as well, and I wanted to display that. We're really here for you and I want to pray for you. I don't even know the guy's name. So about five, 10 minutes into the conversation, I paused and said, all right guys, can we do names again here for just a second?
And everybody kind of smiled a little, I think because we all, like I said, enjoy sharing our name. And so we did it again, except this time, the man and the woman in particular, I kept it playing for the next 10 minutes in my head like background music, the name of these two people. I tried to mention their names periodically to make sure that I remembered it and so at the end when it was time to pray, and this is the first time I've been able to do this at a hospital in long time, I'm learning right along with you, hopefully you're learning some things as well, I was able to bring everybody together for prayer and pray specifically by name for the man laying in the hospital bed, and for his wife, based upon some things that she had just come through. I was able to pray specifically for the granddaughter for something she was doing and also for the daughter as she helped them along the way.
And when I said "in Jesus name we pray, Amen", and looked up... The look in their eyes. We're friends now. It wasn't just some preacher coming, saying hello, checking a box, saying a prayer, and look, we preachers, we don't feel that way. We really want to be there and help. It's just that they don't always understand that, but hearing their name, knowing that it matters and for me personally, here I am a few hours later, I still know all their names so there's just a lot of value in thinking about this and being very intentional about it. I really can't wait until the next time I see them. I think we're going to go visit them in their home in a couple of weeks, my dad and I, or if they show up to church services and I can walk up and greet them by name, I already know the effect that's going to have.
Let me just ask you, do you think something like that, that kind of an impression and a connection could help you? Could it help you at church? Could it help you where you work or where you go to school? I'm sure that it will. Just remember, not everybody that you meet nor everybody that I meet looks at me and shakes my hand and says, "what's my name?" That happens every once in a while. And usually when they, they kind of know they've got me, but let me come back and finish with this. There will be lots of people, maybe people every day of your life that you interact with, and they won't say it, but their eyes, when they're looking at you, their eyes are asking you a question, are you prepared to answer it? Maybe the next time you're talking to someone and you look in their eyes, you will be ready to answer the question that matters to them most at the moment. What's my name?
Kris Emerson, a loving husband, father of four, and gospel preacher, takes a few minutes to go over some important life changing and spirituals insights.
- How to use Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" to your advantage
- How to connect with people through the use of their first name
- Why is a person's name so important to them
- How can you learn to remember people's names
- How to use names to build rapport and trust in new relationships