Some of my customers think I’m good at remembering names, because I call them by theirs. They could not be further from the truth. I remember some customers’ names because I dearly want to, because some people make a tremendous impression on me, because I keep a little spiral notebook where I write down people’s names, a little description of them (“Suzie, 45ish, 5’8″, athletic, shoulder length brown hair”) and any particular topic we talked about (“studying acupuncture”). I also review this notebook periodically.
Some people make a particular impression on me because of how fully they show up – they are really there, are ready and willing to genuinely connect with the grocery store cashier. This also requires me to show up – and I do so more when I’m up than when I’m down. Some people I also know from the dance community, from Jubilee (the funky non-church I attend), from my two years working at Greenlife, or from some other connection in this small town.
I dearly want to remember their names. I can see that people love it when you remember their name. No single act goes further to transform this interaction to a meaningful 1-1 connection. And that’s what I most want – to, in some interactions and relationships, go beyond a purely functional transaction.
Most cashiers do not attempt to learn people’s names – for good reason. It’s not just that it’s hard mental work – there’s a lot of potential downsides. I fail to remember their names – even after they saw me write them down. I forget names – people who I got with no trouble last time, this time I can’t for the life of me pull their name up. Sometimes it seems that for every name I learn, another one falls out. Worse still, some people come through who remember a significant conversation we had last time – and all I know is that they look somehow familiar.
I need to cut myself some slack. I have taken on a very public job. The repetitive nature of the work can be mind-numbing. I am aiming high. On a good day, I truly love my customers. On a depressed day, I want to love my customers – and some interactions still touch my heart.
Many of my customers really like me – and some get irritated or avoid my line because I am slow. We have, overall, world-class customers – really interesting, warm, patient, sweet people. And I show up best when I start by liking myself.