Early on in my professional career, I learned how important it is to get names right. In tomorrow’s Sunday Independent, I will give you my tips to help you get them right too.
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My first job in Washington was on Capitol Hill in a Congressional office. The Chief of Staff’s first name was Christopher.
“It’s Christopher. Not Chris,” he corrected me after I erroneously referred to him in the more casual manner.
Christopher wasn’t being fussy. He simply preferred his name how he preferred it. We went on to have a very solid working relationship. I always respected him for reminding me. Nothing wrong with that.
Our names are possibly the most important part of our identity.
Later on, when I began working in television news in Washington at WTTG, I carefully made it a part of my job to learn and remember the names of everyone I met. I even made a little spreadsheet – listing names, positions and something cool or interesting about each person.
One day, about a couple of months in, I passed a producer in the editing hall whom I had probably met only once or twice before. “Hey, Mark,” I tossed out as I walked by. I won’t tell you his last name, but the cool thing I had listed was his ponytail. Very un-Washington-like.
“Hey,” he turned, “you’re new, right? You clearly make an effort to remember names.”
He went on to leave WTTG to become the producer for The McLaughlin Group, one of the best-known and longest-running current affairs panelist talk shows in US television.
I never forgot Mark. Or Christopher.
And to this day, I try not to forget names.
Last week, I traveled over to Shannon to work with a group of directors from an aviation company. One of the directors’ first names was “Iarlaithe.” I have learned plenty of great new names here in Ireland, but this was a new one for me.
“You probably haven’t heard my name,” Iarlaithe said to me. “It’s unusual.”
Yes, it is. It even says so when you Google it.
“An unusual Irish name that means ‘earl’ or ‘tributary lord,’” reads the citation. The name is also Irish for the St. Jarlarth, who, research shows, was noted for his piety and his teaching ability as he founded a school in County Galway.
The current Iarlaithe I met last week is known to me for his ability with numbers and that he likes his curry very hot!
I find the more I focus taking genuine interest in people and their personalities and stories that surround them, the more I will remember the names that go with them.
I’m not perfect, mind you. Last summer, when I spoke at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Conference, I tried to show-off and go around the large ball-room and name everyone to whom I had been introduced. I got 99 percent – notoriously missing one gentlemen I had been having a wonderful talk with before I came up on stage!
Thankfully, he forgave me. And I’ll keep trying to focus more!
So if you’re one of those people who says you’re ‘just not good with names,’ don’t miss my column,“The Communicator,” tomorrow in the Your Work business section of the Sunday Independent to try and help you remember better.
Let me know what you think and how I may be able to help!
Also, if there’s a career communications topic you would like to me to cover in an upcoming column, or if you would like me to help you or your organization – please drop me a line at gina@Fuzion.ie
Great communications equals great relationships!