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Want impact and influence? Remember their names.


Monterey, 2004

It was our special day. Late July, 2004. I was getting married to an incredible woman and my best friend. Now, many years later, there are still a few key moments that I remember as if it was yesterday. The first time I saw her in her dress. The pronouncement.

The moment the hotel front desk clerk remembered my name.

Yes, it’s strange what you remember, isn’t it.

I will never forget that after our morning wedding was all done, after the reception was complete, after the naps and the going out to dinner with friends, after all of that, Melissa and I walked back into the lobby around 10 pm and the front desk clerk addressed us as The Lemas.

I don’t know if he had a picture of us behind the counter. I don’t know if every shift was told that the Lemas had been married that day.

I have no insight into their process or training at the Marriott in Monterey, California.

But what I do know is that I still remember it, nine years later.

Birmingham, 2013

This past weekend I was in Birmingham at a WordCamp, speaking on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday morning I went up after a panel that included Jen Mylo. I knew who she was. But I had no idea if she knew who I was. So I introduced myself. Now we’ve been in the same place before (like in San Diego’s WordCamp this past year), but that doesn’t mean someone will remember your name. And I never want to be presumptuous. So I introduced myself.

Her response was quick and used my name. She knew me. She knew my name. And all was right in the world.

Ok, maybe all wasn’t right, but the same feeling hit, as it does every time someone recognizes me and calls me by my name.

It’s not about a name. It’s about being seen.

To be clear, I’m not telling you that you need to memorize every person’s name that you ever meet. Far be it from me to give you homework assignments.

And I don’t want you thinking it’s all about memorizing data (name, favorite drink, favorite meal at favorite restaurant) so that you can be more hospitable.

Those are nice things but miss the point. The point doesn’t even have to do with someone’s name.

The powerful moment is when you’re recognized. When someone knows your name because they can see you. See, remember, and acknowledge you.

Until that moment, we’re all walking around wondering if we have significance or importance. And the moment someone points you out, calls you over, or walks over and uses your name – that’s when you feel “seen.”

And in that moment, the acknowledgement is powerful.

Remember them. Remember their names.

If you’re someone like me – someone who wants to leave a mark, have an impact, and have influence in the communities you’re in – then really seeing people is a critical skill to learn.

Yes, learn their name. Yes, learn their favorite drink (“I ordered you a Malibu & Diet” is a great way to invite me to join you at a table). Learn as much as you can about them.

And then remember it. And see if it doesn’t have the kind of impact that is different than what you’ve been experiencing to date.

This weekend, I also finally got to meet Jeni Elliott (The Blog Maven) in person, after interacting on twitter for two months. When she walked up to me (because her avatar looks like her!), I was able to recognize her, remember her name and chat.

I don’t know if it made a difference to her, but I never know when I’ll be that front desk clerk.

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