Zia Hassan

Using Names

One of the most memorable themes from teacher training was the focus on using names. At most corporate events I’ve attended in the last decade or so, name tags were given out, but not actually honored (as in, no one used them).

But during our 3-week summer institute, we all explored our names, wrote about our names, and made the effort to use everyone’s name when speaking to them.

In the first week of my first teaching job, my mentor’s biggest note for me was that I needed to use names more. I soon started using names so much that it felt I was overusing names. Turns out I wasn’t. The response from the students was almost immediate. They were slightly, but noticeably, more attentive than before I started using their names more often.

Even though a name is just something our parents made up to label us at birth, it becomes wired to us, in a natural way, like our shadow.

And when we use other people’s names, we evoke that primal sense of self in the other. It’s powerful.

Fun experiment to try: go into a room alone, say your name aloud over and over. Feel the need to respond at the same time you’re calling. It’s a unique feeling that captures the essence of what it means to have a name.