The Power of a Name

The Power of a Name

So, about four days per week, I head to the local gym after dropping off my kids at school. Working out used to be about getting a good pump and setting new PB’s (personal bests). Now at 48, it’s about staying healthy and getting to eat mostly what I want without gaining too much weight. After many years of the grind, it is a firmly established habit for me, but one which comes more easily on some days than others. One thing that has made it much easier over the past six months is that every day I go to the gym, Louis is there at the front desk to greet me with a smile and a “Good morning Rick!.” His warm and friendly demeanor is such an improvement from the previous front desk workers who would barely raise their eyes to greet me and who never welcomed me by name. It’s such a little thing, but one that I appreciate. It almost automatically improves my mood, my energy, and reinforces my efforts to get myself to the gym. I appreciate Louis. And I’ve told him how much I appreciate his daily greetings.

Did you know that cows like being called by name as well? Agricultural researchers have determined that when “farmers” give their dairy cows a name and then use that name when milking them, those “named cows” produce significantly more milk than those who aren’t named. Researchers suggest that talking to the cows by name helps them feel comfortable and more happy, which results in improved cooperation and, ultimately, generating more milk! Here is a link to that article so you can read about it for yourself:

Similarly, we want kids to be cooperative and productive at school, in the gym, or in session. And I believe that, sometimes, we underestimate how important it is to call kids, students, and clients by their preferred name or nickname as well. There is something very affirming and even bonding that happens when someone calls us by our name. You think I’m exaggerating? Here, play along with me for a minute and I think you’ll see what I mean. I want you to think about your favorite celebrity – movie or TV star, famous musician, professional athlete, heck, even politician……You have one in your mind?……Ok good, now imagine that you see them sitting at a table near yours, in one of your favorite local restaurants….You with me? Now, imagine that, just before you get up the nerve to walk over to their table to introduce yourself, you notice that they are standing up and walking towards you! Yes, right at you! As they approach your table, they stick out their hand and say “Hey (insert your name here), how are you doing today?”…..Can you imagine how that would make you feel and what you would think about them and about yourself?…….I’ll tell you what, if Harrison Ford walked up to me, stuck out his hand, and said “Hey Rick, how have you been?”, I’d be pretty blown away. I would feel really, really happy, I mean super special, and I’d probably think and tell others “that Harrison Ford is such a nice guy!” I imagine that I would smile for at least a week and my confidence would absolutely soar! Again, what about you? Who would say hello to you and what would your reaction be like?

So, what does that have to do with us – teachers, counselors, administrators, and coaches – knowing and using kids’ names? Guess what. You’re the rock star. You’re the celebrity. You are the person who can make a kid’s confidence soar. Every kid, every day? Well, maybe not, but if you work with kids for a living – lots of kids and yes, every day. There might be some who will shy away from that kind of attention in front of their peers or even reject your greetings on a bad day, but the vast majority of kids on the vast majority of days will respond to your calling them by name and checking in on them personally, individually, about the same way that I would respond to connecting with Indiana Jones himself. And as I’ve already mentioned, it doesn’t need to be a celebrity. My mood and energy improves with a fist bump from Louis each morning at the gym.

Look, learning all your students’ names is much easier said than done and gets exponentially more difficult the more students you have for sure. But it is worth the effort, one kiddo at a time, one name at a time. And I guarantee you that once you learn and use their name in that kind of a positive way, they will never forget yours.   

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