I frequent the same local grocery market and for whatever reason, I get the same cashier almost every time. No matter what line I choose, there she is, the same cashier. Something about this person is different and I cannot make it out. She looks down, doesn’t make eye contact with customers and doesn’t smile. I don’t know her and for some reason I feel sad when I see her. I cannot explain what it is and I feel her sadness. When I place my items on the counter to be scanned, I make it a point to say hello and ask her how she is doing. Sometimes she replies with “ok” and most other times she doesn’t reply at all.
I used to think about her whenever I passed the grocery store. I wondered what she was doing and what it was that could be making her feel the way she feels. Could she be a quiet person who doesn’t talk much? I think yes and I also think there could be more.
Then one day, on my way home from work, I went to the grocery store to grab a few things for dinner. This time something felt different. I finished my shopping and headed to checkout. As usual, I went to the shortest line and guess who was the cashier? As I was waiting on line, I noticed the cashier was wearing a name tag. I didn’t remember her wearing one before and that’s ok. As I approached the cashier and placed my items to be scanned, I looked over and noticed her name was “Mary’. In a cheerful and uplifting voice I said, “Hello Mary” and paused. Then I said “how are you today?”. It was like magic. Mary’s head lifted, her eyes opened wide and bright and she gave me the biggest smile. She stopped what she was doing; she shifted her head and stared at me as if I were someone important she hadn’t seen in a long time. Though it was only a few seconds of silence before Mary responded, it felt like hours. The feeling I once had for Mary was replaced with a new feeling. It was a good feeling. I smiled back and Mary asked me if it were ok she used her store card to save me money on my purchase. Of course I said yes and let her do what she was doing and thanked her. I then swiped my bank card and before I could sign, Mary was separating my groceries and packing them in bags. She asked me where my daughter and son were. I was pleasantly surprised that she remembered I had a son and daughter. Mary obviously knew me and my family. How could we know each other and not know each other? Before I could respond, the person behind me on line was pushing forward, placing their items on the counter behind me. There wasn’t much time to talk. As I was moving it along, I put my last bag in the cart when Mary smiled and said “thank you”. As I was walked away, heading for the exit, I heard Mary’s voice from behind, “hello sir, how are you today?” I looked back and saw a different Mary. This Mary looked happy. The feeling I once had about Mary was gone.
I don’t know and I can only guess that Mary wanted to be recognized and feel important. She comes in contact with so many people on a regular basis. Some of them see her several times per week and don’t even know her name. I know this to be true because I was one of them.
I visit a coffee shop on my way to work every so often. Thankfully the people who work there wear name tags. My ability to remember names is not the best but it’s getting better. As I am waiting on line, I make an effort to read the name tags of the people working. I enjoy starting my order by greeting them with their name. It must be 90% or greater that they smile and respond in a way that feels different when I greet them by their name. It not only makes them feel good but it also gives me a nice feeling too. Sometimes the person behind the counter will respond with “how did you know my name?” I enjoy seeing the look on their face when a complete stranger addresses them by their name. I know this to be true because when I wear a name tag and people greet me by my name I feel important too.
How important is it for you to be recognized? How does it make you feel when someone remembers your name? For me it’s very important. It means the other person is taking time to recognize you. They are showing respect and letting you know you matter.
Remembering people’s names is a skill I learned at Dale Carnegie. Life has proven that when you slow down and appreciate the people around you, life becomes special.
One of the simplest and most rewarding ways to make someone feel important is by remembering their name and using it often.
Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language”.
The next time you are on line or wherever you may be, try calling the other person by their name and notice what happens.
Enjoy the ride!
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Robert Paulson is an international executive + leadership coach and can be reached at Info@RobertPaulson.coach