As many of you already know from previous articles, I give tours to the public. At the beginning of every cave tour, I go through a regular spiel, giving my name, going over rules, and encouraging questions.
I don’t fully understand the reason for my joy of a guest getting my attention by calling me by name, but it exists nonetheless.
Remembering “faces and names and people and faces” (as I call it) is not my strong suit. Quite the opposite. It’s one of the reasons I feel a moment of panic when meeting new people.
A short, related aside: I remember when I was in high school, there was a day I was visiting a shop with a friend of mine. I had finished my purchase and was waiting for my friend when she thanked the cashier using their name. I assumed since we were in small-town Preston that she knew the person, but it turns out, my friend hadn’t. I asked her how she so effortlessly thanked the person by name with nothing more than a quick glance at their name tag. “Well, she (our cashier) has a name. What else would I call her?”
This exchange happened more than a decade ago and has stuck with me through all these years. I found my friend’s explanation so down to earth that I found I had no reason not to begin doing so myself.
Perhaps it is because I am so poor with remembering names and faces that, when guests remember my name, it is why I value those occasions as much as I do. Don’t get me wrong, I can recognize people, and I do practice remembering faces and names and people and faces, but so often the moment someone tells me their name, my brain overloads and I instantly need it to be repeated.
Taking the effort to acknowledge someone by name over the course of an interaction helps to build a relationship. Building relationships is what humans do. It’s how we’ve succeeded in uncountable challenges.
We rely on interacting with and recognizing others to accomplish great feats. We’ve built great towers, vast cities, complex transportation and electrical grids. We’ve sent humans to the surface of our moon, space probes beyond our solar system, and have built telescopes to see galaxies billions of lightyears away. All of this was made possible, in no small part, because of cooperation and collaboration with people who could communicate well with each other and had a common goal.
Humans are social organisms and have evolved from small tribal communities from past millennia to a huge intercontinental and intricately connected global civilization. Our ability to communicate with and relate to each other has provided the means to confront unimaginable challenges. The potentiality that open, honest, and respectful communication has is limitless, and such a dialogue usually begins with an introduction; a person’s name.
Another friend put it this way, “We are all given a name — it’s a universal phenomenon made possible by the advent of language. It’s a gift that every person gets when they are born, given to them by someone with whom they have a close bond. By using someone’s name we are acknowledging this universal experience, this notion of having a unique identity as a thinking, breathing, feeling, exerciser of free will. This is how we experience this thing we call ‘humanizing.’”
If we know each other by name, then there is a greater chance we can relate to one another. It doesn’t mean there will be agreements on everything, or anything for that matter, but it humanizes us.
We have names for a reason, and odds are you’ll have your name from birth until long after your death. Names keep things alive whether it’s a person, a town, or an idea.
Some of us are terrible with names. That’s fine. But we can do what we can to acknowledge someone by name when we do remember or are reminded. Reintroductions are the best, because it means you’re continuing to build a longer lasting relationship with someone. And that’s what makes us human.