Recently I was on Facebook and saw this post from my friend, Annie:
“Lately I’ve been thinking about the opposite of pet peeves, the little things that people do that make me weirdly happy. Probably my #1: When someone offers you the first bite of their food/sip of their drink. Followed closely by when people stand up to shake hands with the person you are introducing them to. Anyone else have some of these? #petpeaks“
What unfolded was 100+ comments from people talking about the little things they love.
Here was my contribution:
“I like when I’ve been in a conversation with someone for awhile and then they use my name. Like, “you see, Joy…” Not sure if that’s narcissistic but it makes me feel like they really are talking to me and not just talking to talk.
I also love sauces with all of my heart. A salsa bar, as you know, is pretty much like a restaurant paying me to eat for free.”
I’ll admit, I did feel slightly narcissistic with my addition—but then Annie responded that it had already been mentioned multiple times. (Not my name, but as similar #petpeak of loving to hear our own name.) And I’m not sure if it was because of my name comment or for my love of salsa, but my comment got seven likes so I’m going to assume the “I like when my name is said” thing is pretty spot on.
So I asked, “Why?”
And since I was alone, no one responded.
I think the reason many of us have such a positive reaction to hearing our name is because we long to be intentionally engaged in a conversation. When we feel like someone is just talking for the sake of talking and couldn’t care less if it was our face or a brick wall in front of them, we’re less likely to feel as though our opinion, response, or presence is acknowledged and truly valued.
But when our NAME is said, we know the person we are talking to is simultaneously thinking about their words and their audience—us.
Sure, anyone could read this and begin to manipulate the system, using peoples’ names in conversation to make the listener feel valued for self-serving reasons. Just recently I was on the phone with a guy and he said, “See, Joy…” and I had just written this so I was like, “Is he just trying to get me to fall for him? Does he know of my narcissism??” If that’s you, then guess what? This post isn’t for you, and I hope you feel really guilty about being a communication manipulator.
And I pray you wake up with boils.
But if your hope is to be genuine, here is how I think saying someone’s name in conversation can be wildly beneficial to you both…
1) People want to be remembered. If you are meeting a person for the first time, it’s actually a great way to help you remember their name long-term. (I don’t know about you, but I literally think that when someone introduces themselves and says, “I’m…..” I get three-second amnesia and completely forget whatever name they proclaim.)
2) People want to feel valued and needed. If you are stuck on a diatribe, going on and on about your opinion or thoughts, stop yourself- cause it’s annoying. And then see what happens when you stop, include the person you are talking to and say, “Nancy, what are your thoughts on ________?” or “Bill, I would love to know your insight on _________.”
3) People want to know they are being heard. If someone is going through something tough and you are the one listening, you don’t necessarily need to have an answer or fix their problem. Instead, a powerful reply can simply be saying that person’s name along with an empathetic statement. To me, having someone say, “Oh, Joy…that is awful,”—or on the flip side, “Oh Joy!! I am so excited for you!”—lets me know that person is entering into the highs and lows with me. Not only does it make me feel heard, but it makes me feel known. And I’m pretty sure most people’s deepest desire is feel genuinely known.
Let the practice and intentionality of using someone’s name (which may feel forced at first) become something that opens your eyes to seeing how it makes other people feel and respond to you. I hope it helps you in your desire to be a better listener and I truly believe it can change the way we engage our relationships and build one another up.
Report back and let me know how it went!
Oh, and this old #AskJoy video might help you get started the next time you’re at a party.
From my sauce-loving heart,
Joy. JOY! Joy.
P.S. As you are trying to listen well with new friends, family members, or spouses, sometimes men and women tend to feel more comfortable with different approaches. Read up on “shoulder-to-shoulder communication” and “just listening vs. being a fixer” in my dad’s book Love and Respect.
P.P.S. Annie also happens to be one of the amazing musicians who played at the filming of The Illumination Project. Her pipes are that of a feisty angel.