“Thank you Gas-lady” said the surgeon at the end of our working day as he picked up his bag to leave the operating theatre. I acknowledged it with a smile and a nod. That’s sweet. At that moment it didn’t register but later I realised that he does not know my name. We have worked in the same theatre complex one day per week for the past 4 years and he does not know my name. That’s interesting. I wondered how many people I see on a regular basis and don’t know the names of.
How did that make me feel? Not exactly insulted but definitely unimportant. I found myself making excuses for him – may be he finds my name difficult to remember. It is a foreign name after all. But this is London and many people here have foreign names. May be it is a reflection of a basic power imbalance – every one knows his name but he doesn’t have to know everyone’s name.
Knowing a name is a small thing, but it makes the difference between making someone feel that they matter or they don’t. When our name is known, we are more likely to have a sense of belonging to a person or a group. It also means that who we are is central to the interactions we have.
“Could someone get the defibrillator please?”
“James, could you please bring in the defibrillator?”
Which one of these two statements is likely to produce a quick and effective result? Knowing names can make it easier to get a job done.
Patients are not diabetics, schizophrenics, bed 10, ‘last on the list’, so on and so forth. They have their names and unique identities. Of course, it is not always easy to remember names. It does take some effort. It is easier to put in that effort if we know how much of a difference it can make not only to others but also to us. I find myself paying more attention to names now. Even if I get it wrong, I like to think I tried.
It is definitely worth the effort.
( Saagar was really good at remembering names. In fact, the more unusual the name, the more fun he had with it. Well, there’s a name I’ll never forget – Saagar.)