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Say Their Name When You Network

Say Their Name

Say their name and you rewire their brain. Research has shown that when you address a person by their name, it activates certain parts of the brain. The inferior frontal gyrus lights up when a person hears his or her own name, but it does not illuminate at the sound of other people’s names. It is not the sound of names in general that makes us happy, but the sound of our own names.

Calling someone by name is a simple courtesy that is easy to forget. Yet, when you say their name, you are triggering a reaction that traces back to our evolutionary need for survival. You forge a primal bond. As the CEO of The Good Search and the leader, I’ve learned it is essential for networking, recruiting, and business in general. We want to feel genuinely connected.

“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

– Dale Carnegie

Repeat Their Name

Whenever I meet someone, I listen for the person’s name and take action to remember it. I stay present and mindful. Our short attention span culture is filled with smartphone alerts and texting distractions. It can be hard to zoom in on the person standing right in front of us.

So as I am introduced, I focus on appreciating that new person in my life. If I am uncertain, I ask what they preferred to be called and check to make sure I’m pronouncing their name correctly. I do that to honor their name and to show it matters to me. I repeat the name back to the person in conversation a few minutes after learning it. Doing so helps me remember.

Of course, avoid using a name too much to avoid sounding like a robot. 😉

Value Making Connections

Over the years, I’ve learned the value of giving someone your undivided attention when you are being introduced, if only for a few minutes. I’m sure you’ve experienced times in your life when you met someone whom you immediately sensed really “got” you and appreciated who you were.

Certain celebrities and politicians are masters of the meet-and-greet. You could be in a room filled with hundreds of people. The VIP may be in a reception line. But when he or she gets to you, it is as if everyone else in the room disappears. President Joe Biden is a master at making those he meets feel appreciated. He enjoys connecting with others and it shows.

President Joseph Biden, when he was Vice President, at the Ceremonial Swearing-In with Senators (C-SPAN)

Shows Respect by Saying Their Name

To be effective at networking, you actually need to want to get to know someone else. The desire needs to be there. I find it helps to do a little research. Then, you can honor that person with your full attention. So very often in business, we are not operating in the here and now. When we meet someone and exchange business cards, we often shove them into our pockets without looking at them. That is a lost opportunity.

Ritualize Exchanging Business Cards

Imagine how much more powerful it would be if you exchanged business cards the way the Japanese do in a ritual called meishi koukan (名刺交換). In Japan, business people exchange business cards in a formal ceremony designed to facilitate introductions, commit a person’s name to memory, and enable future communications. You must pause to read the card and appreciate the design in such a way as to convey deep respect. The business card is actually viewed as an extension of the person’s body. You must never write on the card because it is as if you are writing on the person’s face. You must never shove the card into your back pocket because it is as if you are sitting on that person’s face.

There are specific steps you must follow:

  • You must remove a pristine card from your cardholder in preparation.
  • You must defer to the highest-ranking executive to exchange cards first.
  • You must use both hands when you make the exchange.
  • You must make sure the card is facing the recipient
  • You must keep the card visible for the entire meeting.

One’s Name is One’s Identity

Clearly, the Japanese understand that our name connects us to our identity and sense of self. It is uttered first by our parents and by people who care about us the most. Our name is the greatest connection to our own identity and individuality.

Among The Most Important Words

In many ways, our name is the most important word in the world. When you way their name, you harness that primal power. to harness that power. By focusing on the moments you meet someone else, you will remember that person’s name a little more easily and they just might remember yours, like Isenberg in Breaking Bad.

“Say My Name” from the 5th season of Breaking Bad

You can watch Breaking Bad on Netflix, including “Say My Name” Ep.7 from the 5th Season.

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Krista Bradford

Krista Bradford

Krista Bradford is CEO of the retained executive search firm The Good Search and of its research division Intellerati. A former award-winning television journalist and investigative reporter, Ms. Bradford now pursues truth, justice, and great talent in the executive suite.View Author posts

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