Don’t Say My Name, Say My Name…

Did you know that when someone uses your name while speaking to you that it is not always a good thing?


I had a conversation with my best friend the other day about this and she said she thought the other person would be trying to be closer or make the conversation more intimate by using your name.  Not so much.


Let me explain the difference.


When you first meet someone it is perfectly acceptable and understandable to say their name often when speaking to them as it helps you remember it.  When you run into someone that you have not seen for a while or only see sporadically saying their name during conversation again helps you remember their name.  This is a good thing – they want to remember your name.  Go ahead on – say my name, say my name.


It is when you have formed some sort of relationship with a person and they begin using your name that you should realize they are distancing themselves from you or they are not happy with you on some level.


My son always knew when I was not happy with him – I would use his name.  For example:


If I said:  “I’m sorry, you are planning on doing what?” that was a more joking, ‘are you insane’ kind of question but still probably going to let him do it, just making sure he hasn’t completely lost all his marbles or that I heard him correctly.


But if I said, “I’m sorry, Jacob, you are planning on doing what?” it meant I found out about the hidden plan or there was no way in hell he was going anywhere near where he thought he was.


Now, according to my son, the only reason a person has a middle name is so they know when their parents are really ticked at them.  When he was little he met a friend of mine who did not have a middle name.  My little boy looked at him and with the sincerest face asked, “Then what does your mom call you when she is mad at you?”


Just by using his name my son knew the line had been crossed.  Think about it, when you are mad at your spouse isn’t that when you use their name?  Otherwise you say nice things like hon, sweetie, pookey or nothing at all – it is implied.


When talking to a client or business associate and they use your name they are giving you a signal that there is something wrong there.  Perhaps they are not happy with you or they are thinking about using another service provider and they are laying the foundation for separating themselves from you.


The caveat here is if they always use your name.  Then it is an established pattern.  What I am talking about is if they start using your name out of nowhere.


I saw this with a friend of mine.  He was no boy scout by any means but a very fun, loving person.  He made a personal decision to go through some life-coaching and threw himself into it 110%.  I applauded him for this because he did it to help him in certain areas of his life.  Yay you.


What happened after thought is I noticed when he was talking to certain people, business associates and friends, he started using their name during conversations.  I knew immediately he was putting up an invisible hand to them telling them he no longer wanted them in his personal space.


These were people he had good relationships with and got along very well with but now he was removing himself and elevating himself just by using their name.  In this small step he was revealing that he now viewed them as less than desirable to be associated with – not because anything they did but because he changed how he viewed himself.


He really was being quite the butt because the people he was distancing were good people.  Just because he condemned himself for his non-boy scout behavior he was condemning them as well.  The words rocks and glass houses comes to mind…


People might distance themselves because they are upset with you or perhaps they have changed something within themselves.  This is just a little heads up that in out of the blue start using your name in conversation is a little hint that something has changed.


By knowing this little unique tidbit you can now take the opportunity if it happens to you to head off a possible challenging or bad situation.  Information is power – use it wisely.  Instead of full out confronting the person about what is wrong try approaching it in a positive and more subtle way.


The clue itself is subtle and sometimes the person isn’t fully aware that they are giving themselves away.  If you respond with, “Are you mad with me, have I don’t something to upset you?” or anything of the like you will probably catch them off guard.  In doing so you probably will not get to the heart of the matter.


Instead, if it is a client, thank them again for the opportunity to work with them.  Then tell them that you value them and their opinion and would like to know if they think there is anything you can do to improve your service.


Approach the subject gently and with honest care and compassion which will help you get to the underlying issue.  Perhaps you need to check in more regularly with this person because they are feeling neglected.  Or perhaps their personal life has gone to pot and they just need a friend.


You don’t know the underlying issue so do not assume, but use the clue to help uncover what might be hiding underneath and retain a valued relationship.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


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