Thursday, August 23, 2007

Organizing Students: Names

Have you ever encountered a distant acquaintance, not know his or her name, and been flattered that she or he remembered yours? Calling people by their names is something we humans as social beings appreciate. For many of us, remembering names is really hard. Is it possible that scientists are worse at this than other professions. We do spend a lot of time by ourselves in hoods, at benches and in front of computer terminals...

Keeping people involved in a student group requires relationship building. If the group is to persist, some of the most important relationships are vertical. The leaders need to be familiar with other members, because the new members may be tomorrow's leaders. Chances are good that the new members already know the leaders' names. They are after all sending the emails and standing up in front. This is why it is incumbent on the student leaders to make an extra effort to know members' names.

I am consistently embarrassed when I forget names; I am no expert. But of the many techniques you can find in self-help books, here are the tips that work for me.
  • Repeat the name in conversation with the person when you first meet him or her. This cements the verbal imprint.
  • Tie the person's name to one particular characteristic: academic department, advisor's name, molecule of interest, distinctive facial feature all work for me.
  • Refer to this person when you talk to others: "The other day, Telemachus Brown was telling me about his interest in the psychology of parental absenteeism."
The more reinforcement, the better. Hopefully your brain won't then lock up when you see this person next. Particularly if you have worked closely with this person (you know who you are!) for years...

Maintaining a good relationship with future leaders is critical to your student organization's sustainability. It may sound obvious, but having your name known is important to people. When it comes down to it, you want a place where people know - people are all the same; you want a place where everybody knows your name...

This post is sponsored by the Forum on Science Ethics and Policy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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