Friday, November 22, 2013

Life Lessons—What's in a Name?

by Reba J Hoffman, Ph.D

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting a local writer’s group. I went to the sign-in table, promptly wrote a name on a visitor’s name tag and plastered it onto my denim jacket. A member of the writing group who’s also an editor immediately noticed I didn’t use my own name.

Okay… besides the fact that I’m not tall with gorgeous red hair and dozens of best-selling suspense novels, how did this person know I was not award winning author Brandilyn Collins? Oh wait. That’s for another blog post.

I spent a couple of hours with this lovely group of writers. Yesterday I was in my office (the café at Barnes and Noble) editing my manuscript. I needed a break and began walking around the store browsing the stacks of books.

I looked up and saw this editor walking toward me. When I approached to swap howdies with her, I called her by name. She stopped dead in her tracks. She couldn’t believe I remembered her name. That really impressed her.

We chatted for a few minutes, during which time I made a reference to her being an editor. Again, she was stunned.

“There were so many people there. I can’t believe you remembered that about me.”

It made such an impact on her because I remembered her name and what she did for a living.

Dear precious writers, now read this! What’s in a name? E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G!

I’ve heard people say they’re just not good with names. I’ve been guilty of saying that myself. Yet, remembering someone’s name and using it when referring to them is the ONE most critical thing you as a writer can do to get readers to keep buying your books.

And, free of charge, I’m going to tell you why you have such trouble remembering names. It’s quite simple, really. Ready?

When you’re being introduced to someone, you’re not listening for their name. You should be, but you’re not. You’re listening for your name. That’s mindboggling if you think about it. I mean, we know our own name. Most often, the person introducing us knows our name and will get it right. We need to know the other person’s name and yet, we’re tuned in to hear our own.

So, all you have to do is change your focus. Make a concerted effort to listen for the other person’s name. Make a note of it. Say it out loud in a, “nice to meet you, Robin,” statement. That way, you’ve heard it, said it and confirmed it with them. You’ll remember it. Not to mention dazzle your readers and make them stick with you for life!

Remember what’s in a name. Many times, their name is all they have. Honor people by using their name. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to them… and yourself. And it’s completely free!

Have you had a situation where someone surprisingly called you by name? Or you called them by name? Share it here!

Reba J. Hoffman is the founder and president of Magellan Life Coaching ( She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling and is a natural encourager. She serves as Member Care Coach for My Book Therapy and is the author of Dare to Dream, A Writer’s Journal. You can connect with Reba through her motivational blog, Finding True North, or by email at You can also follow her on Twitter at @MagellanCoach.


  1. A name is so important. A given name gives us identity - it reveals history. When I'm introduced to someone or meet them for the first time I ask, "Who named you, your mom or your dad?" I remember their names because they've given me a story behind it. I always ask for my servers name wherever I eat because they become people and not just servers. They appreciate it and I always tip them well...I seem to get better service. mmmm interesting how powerful a name is.

    1. Indeed, Chris! Thanks for stopping by!

    2. That's a very gooe method, Chris! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Thank you for a refresher in how to remember names. I think repeating the name then making a connection in your mind will help you to remember.

  3. I've actually avoided using names because I was worried that I had it wrong. I think the master, Zig Ziglar, had much to say on this subject as well. When we focus on other people, we get a tenfold return. Most of us have figured out it works in a marriage, but few make an effort outside of that, especially something as seemingly unimportant as remembering a name. I'll try harder. Promise. You can test me in St. Louis next year.

    1. Rick, I'm sure you'll remember my name, won't you? *wink* Seriously, Ron, it's something we have to work at on a conscious level.

  4. Edie, I am constantly amazed that people remember my name at conferences and workshops - I am a very small fish in a big pond of overachievers. I attend these functions with the specific purpose of networking - meeting the writers I want to meet and giving myself presence in their world - for I am involved in a group that is constantly searching for speakers for our own workshops. I guess it's working, but still can't describe that "Hey. She knows my name!" feeling that I get when someone greets me. One of these days, I hope to be the writer that others seek I want to be ready!

  5. Loved this, Reba. So important and I have to keep reminding myself!
    Elva Martin