Stop Saying Their Name Over and Over, A No-BS Guide to Socializing

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Guide to Socializing

Okay, let me guess. You read somewhere that people like hearing their own name so you’ve been making it a point to use it more during conversation.

Sure, a person’s name is indeed the sweetest sound in any language to that person. Dale Carnegie said that and I agree, but damn, some people overuse it and it makes you look… Ridiculous.

It gets obvious that you just read some self-help material.

That’s not what these “social life hacks” are for. They’re guidelines. Think of them like something to keep in the back of your mind, not something to be abused like they’re assault rifles with unlimited ammo.

Self-improvement advice works when you apply sparingly while you’re socializing. It’s always a side-dish not the main course.

Here’s some of the most common advice you’re bound to run into and how to actually apply them without looking like a try-hard.

Using people’s names without driving them insane

Imagine meeting someone who talks like this:

“Nice to meet you, Jason! How do you know these people, Jason? Really? Hah, that’s awesome, Jason.”

Come on. It sounds like a rookie outbound marketer who is trying to make sales and his boss told him that using the prospect’s name helps. Then of course the marketer goes crazy with it and immediately gets the call dropped.

What you should be doing: You’ve got to limit the amount of times you say their names and use it when it makes sense.

When I meet someone new I usually say it back to them after shaking their hand. That helps me remember it plus they know I was actually paying attention.

“Nice to meet you, Jason.” Handshake.

Then after you talk and you’re just wrapping up the conversation, you toss in a casual “See you around, Jason!”

So in most conversations with strangers I usually only say their name twice. Once in the introduction and at the end, which shows them I actually remembered.

Quick note: I used to be terrible with names. After I started adopting the “Name-Twice” rule, I usually do pretty well. I never remembered names until I started repeating their name in my head at least 5 times after meeting them and saying it again as we split ways.

You’ll get pretty good with names after a while and it’s just a bonus to make people feel good that you remembered.

Avoiding the deathgrip handshake

Dead fish handshakes. No one wants them right? Do you think it’s better to overcorrect and just squeeze down as hard as you can?

On behalf of everyone else on earth, please don’t give anyone the deathgrip handshake. I know a guy who does this and it’s irritating at best.

What you should be doing: Grasp their hand and squeeze firmly so it’s not loose but don’t shatter their bones. They’re going to hate you if you’re known as the person who makes it a battle of forearm strength.

Mimicking/Parroting just the right amount

I don’t see this repeated (no pun intended) as often as other general self-improvement tips, but it’s worth mentioning.

Leil Lowndes, author of How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships, recommends repeating “…the last two or three words your companion said, in a sympathetic, questioning tone. That throws the conversational ball right back in your partner’s court.”

You can see how this gets annoying right? Leil’s reasoning is that it shows you’re listening. That’s a great way to establish yourself as a good listener, but please don’t keep doing this.

What you should be doing: Maybe mimic once or twice in a conversation and you’re golden. Anything more than that and they’re going to catch on to what you’re doing.

This socializing stuff is a lot of work, huh?

When eye contact gets creepy

I can only speak for the culture in the States, so this section is more for those for Americans. Don’t overdo eye contact.

Having too much eye contact can be even worse than none at all. You suddenly look like a serial killer.

What you should be doing: Look at them are while they’re talking, but don’t be afraid to break contact every few seconds or so while you’re talking. Don’t get so focused on timing. Just make sure you’re not staring at them forever.

Definitely don’t keep scanning the room while they’re talking or they’ll think you aren’t interested in what they have to say.

Uncomfortable with eye contact? Here’s a great guide on how to improve your eye contact.

Asking questions and listening
(without that interview feel)

The key to being a good listener and conversationalist is learning to talk about the other person. You’ve heard that before.

Yes, people generally love talking about themselves. Yes, it’s better to listen more than you talk. That’s cool and all, but conversations aren’t interviews!

What you should be doing: Relate to them and contribute to the conversation. Don’t keep firing rounds of questions, one after the other. It’s unnatural. Share stories and information about yourself.

When you do ask questions try to ask open-ended questions that take more than a “yes” or “no” to answer. It leads to more in-depth conversations that give room for both people to talk.

Matching energy when socializing

Optimism is generally good but sometimes it can get annoying. If you’re talking to someone who is tired and wants time to recharge you shouldn’t be going full volume trying to get them to “open up.”

People get tired. Some people are lower energy individuals in general. Others find “bubbliness” to be irritating.

What you should be doing: Match the other person’s energy level. If they’re excited and loud then you can do the same and still get along fine (hopefully without forcing it.) However, don’t expect to be able to do the same to someone who is speaking softly and slowly.

It may take time for them to open up and show you their real side. You won’t get there if you’re draining them.

Please don’t force yourself to be an enthusiastic person if you’re really not. It’s going to come off as non-genuine if you sound like a salesperson.

Your phone, the rules for when to answer or ignore

The phone trapOkay, I’m guilty of this. Sometimes I get too caught up in texting that I start pulling it out while I’m out with my friends.

You shouldn’t be on your phone while you’re with your friends. Hell, it should be a law.

But at the same time it isn’t like you should be ignoring 3 phone calls in a row because you think you shouldn’t ever pick up your phone while talking to someone.

“Are you going to get that? I don’t mind… No, really, I don’t.”

What you should be doing: The general rule I try to follow is to ignore my texts when I’m in a conversation, but phone calls get a pass because it could be an emergency.

Besides, it’s annoying to have to let your ringtone just play itself over and over.

Nodding like a bobble head

Showing someone you’re listening is easy if you nod every now and then with a few “mmhmm’s” thrown in. Yet it can get very irritating if you do it every 3 seconds.

What you should be doing: Nod when they’re making a point. Throw in some “mmhmm’s” when there’s a long pause. Don’t be doing it constantly.

Remember not to read into too many “social hacks.” Skim them and establish a mental framework that you can keep in the back of your mind, but don’t rely on them. You don’t want to be robotic or generic. You don’t want people to run away from you because you’re a walking self-help book.

Have fun with it and meet people. Experiment, crash and burn. You’re not going to befriend everyone, but you can still enjoy the process of trying.

Photo Credit: Incase, Flickr and Max Slowik, Flickr

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway. After landing his dream job with Empire Flippers he dropped out of school and moved to Davao, Philippines to work closely with the company's founders. Don't worry, he still publishes every Monday and hasn't missed a single week since starting this site in January 2013.

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26 responses to Stop Saying Their Name Over and Over, A No-BS Guide to Socializing

  1. I love what you said at the end there about experimenting, crashing, and burning. You really can’t know how much is too much of anything until you screw it up.

    I’ve totally been guilty of going overboard with social hacks in the past. It definitely weirded out some people, but it was necessary in order for me to learn social intelligence.

    I definitely see your point about eye contact, but I have noticed that when I got used to holding eye contact and became comfortable with it, the creepiness levels dropped to zero. Body language (including eye contact) should be a direct reflection of how you feel inside. So if I’m super comfortable with eye contact, chances are the other person will feel comfortable as well.

    Keep laying the truth down man!!

    • I think the creepiness dropped off because you began to pick up on nonverbal cues. When you had intense, uncomfortable eye contact you saw people responding differently. As you learned to read how they felt towards your look you began to calibrate by softening your gaze or lessening the amount you stare.

      Either way, great job!

  2. Vincent,

    I like all your rules here. Doing too much of ANY good thing can simply be too much.

    I guess it boils down to the fact that social situations are like the rest of life: everything in moderation. Each one of these seems to have “good” effect when you do it a “little” but quickly become annoying as hell with overuse.

    -SJ

  3. I’m so glad you mentioned nodding.. that is a huge part of a standard Japanese conversation.. Like nodding and saying “un” every now and then to show EXTREMELY CLEARLY that you are listening. And guess what, it becomes a habit.

    Involuntarily you start to mimic them. I think it might be an instinct to adapt to the social behavior or something. Now and then I find myself nodding on the phone, something that is like super stereotypical Japanese.

    It takes some conscious effort, but I try to keep my nods to a minimum these days. While it has taught me a bit about listening, and expressing that you’re paying attention, it would be considered weird in the context of Norwegian culture to do it to the same extent.

    (As a long-winded blabbermouth, active listening is one of the things that makes me able to force myself to shut up more. That and asking questions where the answers truly interest me.. maybe I’m so much of a control freak that I feel the ocd need to control every conversation I’m in… a scary prospect to say the least.)

    I think a huge problem with self-improvement(coincidentally also blogging and IM) is the information jungle. There are so many people offering completely opposite advice. I think the best idea is to pick a few who seem to make the most sense to you personally and follow them and only be aware of opposing views as a way of questioning the validity of their individual pieces of advice to you.

    Sorry for basically writing a post in your comment section for the third or fourth time. Hope everything is proceeding well for you Vincent!

  4. Great advice, V!!! When someone squeezes my hand like a nimrod, I feel like kicking them in the jimmies. I’m a guitarist, for crying out loud!!!

  5. You know what, you’re so right on the money with the name thing. I HATE it when people using my name in conversation, especially when they already know you.

    It’s fine if they say ‘Hey, Jamie, have a look at this’.. because they are trying to get my attention, but if they say something like, ‘oh you know what Jamie, that is not going to work’…

    I don’t know why, it just sounds patronising and a bit sickly.

    I’m also not a fan of answering calls in public or when in conversation but I do sneak a peak at texts. I know I shouldn’t but you never know.. it could be a warning, like you see in the movies..

    ‘That guy you’re talking to, HE is the killer.. run, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!’.

  6. You have to use discernment for sure. I think the big things with names is that you make an impression just for remembering someones name. It means you care.

  7. Repeating the name too often – is not really my problem. It is not at all mentioning the name because after a few seconds of talking to the person, I forget the name of the person I’m talking to (if we met for the first time)! Haha. You came far ahead for me. :)

    But indeed, too much of anything is also bad- and in the case of socializing- annoying. Essentially, anyone who is not sincere when talking can be clearly obvious. Whether it is repeating your name and start sounding obvious that you are trying to sell something, or say ‘that’s interesting’ but you flip your head elsewhere and say goodbye to talk to another person, there is a clear line between a genuine interest and a fake and you and I can sense that.

    All the best to you Vince ;)

  8. I used to have a problem with not saying the name enough, especially with women I found attractive. But I got over that.

    Good suggestions, Vincent. As a communication teacher, these are the same kinds of tips we might cover in class.

  9. Awesome article man! I had never heard the ‘name’ thing mentioned before, but after reading your post, I can’t stop thinking about it. Every time someone mentions my name, my ears and attention perk right up and I listen so much more. I’m going to use this today – great tips!

  10. Hi Vincent, what a unique self-help post as you’ve flipped the “standards” around a bit and it makes so much sense. I am a really bubbly person, so I do have to match my energy to my companions. That is a great point and well taken, Vincent.

    I hear you on the eye contact, Vincent. Serial killers are for real, Vincent.

    I don’t think I have the name thing down. ;)

    I really enjoyed this one! Have a great weekend!

    • Ha, Tammy! I see what you did there, Tammy. It took me a while if I were to be honest, Tammy. :)

      When I first read your comment’s first paragraph, I noticed the name thing twice and was 1% agitated before I ran into paragraph two and laughed! It runs deeeeep!

  11. haha I used to nod my head non-stop a few years ago. I guess it somehow became a habit, but I had to spot when I started to get mocked.

  12. Please. Make. Everyone. Read. This.

    This goes double for guys who are just getting into dating science, or who want to learn social skills in general. Its generally pretty easy to spot people who just started reading the socializing self help books because they go overboard at first – I was definitely like that at first.

    Like you said though, its important to go nuts first so you learn to turn it back a notch.

    You keep writing such good shit, bro – how do you keep thinking of material to post?

  13. Great tips, especially the asking questions and just listening. It really helps me out all the time!

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