What's in a Name

There’s something about a name.

Tonight, I went down to the local Shawarma joint (Mr. Shawarma, for any Ottawa west-enders looking for the best meal in the ‘hood). I am quite a regular there, stopping in probably once or twice a week – it’s my default meal when hubby is working.

The same man is almost always behind the counter; I think he is the owner. His face lights up when I walk in the door, and it’s not just me – he absolutely beams at every customer that comes in. As he prepares your meal, he always asks how you are doing, makes conversation. Not only is the food great, but this man’s personality just makes you want to keep coming back.

One thing is kind of strange though. I have been going there upwards of 3 years now, and I have never known the man’s name. To me, he’s simply “the smiling guy at Mr. Shawarma”. It has never really even occurred to me what his name is or could be.

Tonight, I walked in, and there he was – beaming from behind the counter as always, as if I had just totally made his day by stepping in the door. “Good evening, my friend!!!”, he said. And then I saw it.

He was wearing a name tag. And suddenly things changed.

Until you know someone’s name, they are just a face. A guy behind a counter. A woman crossing the street. A man sitting next to you at a conference. But once you know their name, your relationship with them changes. Once you know someone’s name, you can introduce them to others, file them in your contacts list, and associate them with particular experiences. Once you know their name, you can really start to relate to them.

Until tonight, the guy at the Shawarma shop was another face. But now, I know that his name is Moustafa. He’s no longer “the smiling guy” to me. He’s “smiling Moustafa”. I feel like somehow I know him better, just because I know his name.

What I’ve realized, is that he still does not know my name. I fully intend to rectify that the next time I drop in.

The people that you see and interact with on a day to day basis – the postman, the newspaper carrier, the pizza delivery guy – do you know their names? We all interact with so many people online, know so much about who they are and what they do. But do you know the name of the woman who sells you lottery tickets at the corner store? Do you know your neighbours’ names? And if you don’t – why not?

I’ve realized that I am guilty of this too. So from here on in, I’m going to make a point of not only expanding my network and my community online, but looking around at the people right next to me, and finding out how I can engage them too.

6 comments
Bob LeDrew
Bob LeDrew

You're absolutely right, Sue. When I call the local pizza place and get Cathy on the other end, it's a totally different experience than calling Pizza Pizza or an anonymous pizza place.

Tim Jahn
Tim Jahn

It is amazing how many people we interact with that are nameless to us because we never thought to get their name. I agree with Danny...I think it has to do with how easy it is to be anonymous or less personal online. Thanks for bringing our attention to this!

WTL
WTL

I'm big on knowing people's names, and I believe it is because I'm from a small town where everyone knew everyone else. I love walking into a business where people know you and are extra-friendly because of it. That's probably why I hang out so much at my pub. ;-) Taking the time to get to know someone's name is inconsequential to the possible benefits, and it helps build your community.

Danny
Danny

At times I think we've all been guilty of taking the people that are all around us for granted. Perhaps it's the anonymity of online contacts and relationships - although we feel we may know someone, there's never the actual knowledge you get with a face-to-face persona. Hopefully we can all take inspiration from your post and get to know people around us that that little bit more.

David Leonhardt
David Leonhardt

Interesting. In marketing, one key tool is to create a name for your services so that people can relate to them. So the same should apply in real life. The problem is with someone like me who so often can't remember names...until they've walked away and it's too late. lol

martin
martin

leads to a lot of thoughts ... making it personal --> connecting with people --> tolerance v intolerance. for a topical example, I'm a christian. 10 years ago I would have voted yes on california's prop 8. In the last 10 years, i've met and got to know some gay people and all of a sudden its personal. It's not 'them' who I'd be hurting / voting against. It's someone like me. Meeting and Knowing someone has made me a more tolerant person. More importantly (to me anyway), its probably made me a better Christian.

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