A nametag isn’t just a sticker; it’s a statement.
About friendliness. About identity. About culture. About human nature.
Now, as The World’s Expert on Nametags, I’m not suggesting you should wear a nametag everyday. However, in my experiences over the past 3,000 days, I’ve discovered a series of simple truths that answer the question, “What’s in a nametag?”
THEREFORE: My challenge you to is twofold: (1) consider the following list of the twenty-two elements a nametag symbolizes, and (2) reflect on how well each of those elements are practiced your own daily life.
Ultimately, if reading this list inspires you to wear nametags more often, cool. If not, that’s cool too. The goal is for you to use these elements, lessons and questions as mirrors for your own personal growth.
1. A nametag is a permission slip. It’s OK to talk to strangers. If you say hello to a random person, he’s not going to snap. He’s not going to kill you. Don’t be afraid. This person might actually be nice. And cool. And interesting. Hell, you might even learn a thing or two. How are you giving strangers permission to talk to you?
2. A nametag is a conversation advancer and engagement tool. The hardest part about conversations is getting the ball rolling. That’s why names are so great. They are THEE basic building block of conversation. The sooner you know people’s names, the sooner you feel comfortable around them. How could you expedite the conversation by self-disclosing first with people?
3. A nametag is an invitation for friendliness. It’s like walking around saying, “Here. Take it. I’m giving you an opening. I’m making this really, really easy. All you have to do is say hello.” How could you make it really, really easy for people to start a conversation with you?
4. A nametag is a simple act of self-confidence and comfort. It’s also like walking around saying, “Alright world. Here’s who I am. This is ME. I’m proud of my name and my existence. I gladly wear it over my heart. Perhaps this will inspire the people I encounter to do the same.” How comfortable are you with your personal Truth? How often does your state of being inspire others to be comfortable with theirs?
5. A nametag is a disarming gesture. Sigmund Freud discovered that a person’s name is the single context of human memory most forgotten. So, wearing a nametag means one less name people have to worry about remembering. Thank GOD. How are you relieving psychological pressures? How are you lowering the probability that someone will lose face in a social encounter with you?
6. A nametag is an immediate tool of accountability. If you’re wearing a nametag, you are statistically less likely to lie or cheat, steal, litter or start fights with people. See, when everybody knows your name, you kind of have to be nice. If you’re not, people will know that “Dave” is a jerk. How are you painting yourself into a good corner?
7. A nametag is an alarm clock. If I’m in a rush and someone says, “Hey Scott!” or “Dude, you’re still wearing your nametag…” I have no choice but to stop (or at least S-L-O-W down) to acknowledge that person. Their greeting – in jest or not – has acknowledged my existence, and the proper, HUMAN thing to do is to reciprocate. How do you find your center of gravity at the moment? What will keep you mindful today?
8. A nametag is a bell of awareness. When standing in line or waiting for something, I often find myself daydreaming. Or brainstorming. Or thinking. Or writing something in my jotter. Or playing on my iPhone. Either way, when the cashier or person behind me says something like, “Scott, you’re next in line!” it’s a gentle nudge away from La-La Land and back into the present moment. How are you getting out of your mind and into the now?
9. A nametag is a cue for fun. It makes people smile. It makes people laugh. It invites jokes and playfulness. Even in the most serious and formal and professional situations, the hand-written, casual, relaxing – yet curious – nature of an adhesive nametag is impossible to ignore. How much fun are you having at work? Do you give others permission to be playful around you? And when you, how does that positively affect productivity?
10. A nametag is personalizes and humanizes someone. Instead of being a nameless statistic or just another face in the crowd, now I have an identity. A name. I’m a person. Which, in a fast-paced, overpopulated society, is almost an accomplishment. How are you shining (and helping other people shine) in a sea of sameness?
11. A nametag eliminates labeling. Instead of people looking at me and making a judgment about my identity, gently broadcasting to them that I’m simply, “Scott” gives them nowhere to go. I’ve labeled myself before they got a chance to do so. I beat them to the punch, and all they can do is agree and say, “Well, I guess this guy’s name is Scott.” How are you silently disarming strangers?
12. A nametag reduces psychological distance. The minute you know someone’s name, you immediately feel closer and more connected to that person. Simply stated, names reduce the distance between people. How are you reducing the distance between you and the people around you? What are you doing to reduce the conflict level around you?
13. A nametag is a reminder to be open. A reminder that it’s important and necessary and powerful to be open and transparent with everyone. A reminder that radical honesty actually works. Especially in our hyperspeed, A.D.D. and (increasingly) socially isolated culture, openness isn’t just valuable, it’s demanded. How transparent are you? How transparent do your customers perceive you to be? And how much money are you losing by not being totally open?
14. A nametag is honest. In a world of mistrust, dishonesty and non-stop bullshite, it’s refreshing to see even the tiniest symbol of truthfulness. What’s fascinating to me is when people look at me with a furrowed brow and a finger on their chin and ask, “Is that your REAL name?”
Now, I know they’re just joking around with me. But in the back of my mind I’m asking two questions: (1) “Why would I lie about my own NAME? It’s the most basic element of my personal truth!” and (2) “Has our society demonstrated SUCH a consistent pattern of dishonestly that a stranger would be skeptical about another stranger’s willingness to share his real name?” How honest are you? How honest do your customers perceive you to be? And how are you branding your honesty, every day?
15. A nametag stretches you. By way of self-disclosure, by way of forgoing anonymity, wearing a nametag LITERALLY causes you to “stick yourself out there.” Sure, it might be uncomfortable. But that’s the best way to learn. Comfort zones are overrated. You have no business there anyway.
In the words of Henry James, “To risk is to risk being shattered. But without the shattering, there is no glory.” What are you shattering? How did you step out of your comfort zone yesterday? And what three lessons did you learn from that?
16. A nametag is a white flag. Human beings avoid conflict, and nametags are natural eliminators of conflict. Think about it: Ever avoided someone because you couldn’t remember their name? Remember: Psychological Distance. Disarming people. Building comfort. It works. Does conflict dissolve in your presence? How are you increasing the probability of an encounter with the people around you?
17. A nametag is a time machine. The farther you go back in time, the friendlier people become. Spooky, but it makes sense: Decades ago, the world was smaller, slower, simpler and safer. So, of course people were friendlier. Ironically, at this point in our world’s history, friendliness is so rare it’s become remarkable. All the more reason to amp up your “hello count.” How many people did you go out of your way to ignore last week? What are you doing to reverse the trend of unfriendliness and interpersonal fear in your daily actions?
18. A nametag is a mini-sacrifice. Sure, you feel dumb when wearing a nametag. It’s uncomfortable. But think about how many people whose lives you just made easier. Like the guy who’s been working down the hall from you for six years but didn’t know how to spell your name until now. Like the shy person across the room who didn’t have the courage to walk up and say hello until now. Like the new yoga teacher who had thirty new students, yet only 29 new names to memorize. Whew! How are you practicing mini-sacrifices each day to make other people’s lives (even a LITTLE) easier? What comfort are you willing to forego?
19. A nametag is a signal of bigger ears. One of the more fascinating outcomes of wearing a nametag every day is: People just start talking to me. It’s the strangest thing. Complete strangers will open up about topics they wouldn’t normally discuss with someone they just met ten seconds ago.
So now, after nine years, I’ve finally figured out what the deal is. Apparently, listening is so rare these days that people will jump at any opportunity, any opening, to actually have someone open their ears to them. Wow. Are you all ears or all mouth? Are you monopolizing the talking or the listening? And when was the last time someone complimented you on your listening skills?
20. A nametag INSINUATES instead of IMPOSING. A nametag is non-threatening. It doesn’t force anybody to do anything. People can choose to say hi or ignore it. No hard feelings. Either way, it’s still an act of friendliness. The nametag is there if you want it. It’s the difference between interruption and interaction. The difference between music and noise. Are you interrupting people or interacting with them? Are you trying to get people to join you, or taking the first step to join THEM?
21. A nametag is an equalizer. When nametags are worn CORRECTLY (which means no last names, logos, titles, acronyms, degrees, positions or designations – just the first name your mama gave you) you successfully level the playing field. Plain and handwritten. Values before vocation. Individuality before industry. Personality before position.
This allows you to lead with your person, NOT your profession. This allows people to know you first as a human, not a statistic. What labels could you delete? How could you make it impossible for people to pigeonhole hole you?
22. A nametag is a chisel. Because nametags are permission slips, because they invite encounters and encourage engagement, and because they personalize and humanize people, nametags are ALSO chisels. Now, I say that because Michelangelo famously remarked, “The sculpture is inside the stone.”
That’s been the coolest outcome after 3,000 days. Wearing a nametag hasn’t created my identity; it’s revealed it. The nametag excavated and amplified who I always was as a person. It enabled me to continue becoming the person I was in the process of becoming. As a chisel, it chipped away. And the sculpture – that was there the whole time – turned out to be pretty damn impressive.
So, here’s the best part: Every time you meet someone new it’s an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Which means: The more people you meet the more you learn about yourself. Cool! What did you learn about yourself today? What natural, lifelong inner sculpture are you chipping away at?
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Well, there it is. 3,000 days of wearing a nametag.
What’s in a nametag? Looks like a lot.
Here’s to 3,000 more!
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How have nametags changed your life?
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For the list called, “57 Lessons My Nametag Taught Me in 2008,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
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