September 02, 2014

Name Tags Can Change the World

At 15 years old, I climbed onto a bus for my first volunteering trip. I was instantly greeted by the faces of 40 strangers. The first thing that came into my mind was, “How am I going to remember everyone’s name?”

I started wearing a name tag my sophomore year of high school. At the time, I was doing a lot of volunteering – as much as a part time job for most high school students. It made sense for me to wear a name tag.

Over the years, it has become a part of who I am; people have come to expect that I wear a name tag. I put it on every day when I walk out the door. Occasionally, a few friends have asked for name tags like mine, but I had never been intentional about handing them out.

In the past four months, I have recognized the importance of wearing a name tag and the power that name tags hold. While spending my second term at Sapient, I gave name tags to my co-workers as parting gifts. Then, during my final term at NBBJ, I ordered more name tags to hand out as a social experiment in community building and office culture. I went so far as to include ‘name tag wearing’ in a presentation on how NBBJ can differentiate itself. The partner in the room liked the idea so much that I got a selfie of him wearing a name tag the next week.

With all of this being said, I’m guessing you’re curious as to why I believe so strongly in name tags.

Here are a few reason why I think everyone should wear a name tag:

Relationships - Names are building blocks of relationships and community. By wearing a name tag, you empower the people around you to interact with you and use your name. Forgetting someone's name is no reason not to start a conversation, but is often the excuse. With name tags, there is no risk of that awkward moment..

Joy - I have found that wearing a name tag brings a tremendous amount of joy to my life and the lives of the people around me. There is nothing quite like holding the door for an elderly person and for them to be able to say, “Thank you, Joe.” To me, the intimacy of knowing someone’s name is one of the purest interactions we can have with each other. By being able to use someone’s name, the interaction becomes that much more powerful.

Breaks the ice - Wearing a name tag is a great ice-breaker in all situations: business gatherings, house parties, formals, work, travel and the list goes on. Wearing a name tag in situations where no one else is wearing one tends to be unusual enough that people will often ask why.

  • “Is Joe your real name?”
  • “Why are you wearing a name tag?”
  • And my favorite, “Where are the bathrooms?” (I have been mistaken as an employee many times, understandably so.)

My introverted friends wear name tags as a reason to interact. “It forces me to interact with people, even when I don't want to,” they’ll explain to me when I inquire.

By knowing someone’s name we are given a key – the key to that individual. Their name is their identity; it’s how we remember them. If everyone we interacted with literally had a name to their face, I believe that we would all gain a new level of empathy for others.

P.S. I am not the first to suggest name tag wearing… Seinfeld had an opinion too .

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