The other day, I attended a networking group of bloggers. First time with this group and I didn’t know what to expect, since these were folks brand new to me.
I sat at a table with mostly chatty people who seemed to know each other. They made no big effort to talk with me, but I didn’t either.
The life of an introvert.
When we introduced ourselves to the group and what we wanted to learn, I stepped outside my normally reserved self to talk about my writing and wanting to expand the reach of my blog.
A bit later, one of the presenters, as he was talking about something, looked at me and called me Mark. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been called Mark in my life, I could be in the same club as Warren Buffet.
What is it with the name Mark? Is everyone whose name starts with M, named Mark?
Actually, Mike has often been the most popular boy’s name. Mike, not Mark. So why is Mark the first name out of someone’s mouth? At least it is not Mortimer or Milton. Once in college, a professor referred to me as Otto. Otto? How the hell did he come up with that?
In my geology class, a graduate instructor, who seemed to fashion himself a standup comedian, was calling the role and got to my name. He pronounced my name with a question mark at the end. He puffed up and said, “You need a name with some pizazz.” Now, he said this in front of the class. Without missing a beat, I responded, “You mean, like Dave Butler?” Dave Butler was his name. There was mostly a collective sigh from the class, with a few snickers. He gave me the stink eye before going on with his roll call. I never had much interaction with raconteur Dave Butler after that.
So, what’s in a name? Normally, we don’t get to name ourselves. Parents take care of that business. We might shorten our name, or use a middle name, or even come up with a nickname. Usually, we use what we are given.
Have you ever had someone come up to you and say, you don’t like like a (insert name)? No one has ever said to me, you don’t look like a Mark. I’d had a lot of people who have told me I look familiar but don’t know my name. Usually my family. Sorry, couldn’t resist, just a high-five to Rodney Dangerfield.
Normally, at conferences and seminars, we write our names on tags that say, Hello, my name is… Do you ever pause to decide whether to write your first and last name, or just your first? If you are there for work, do you include your organization? If you write all of that the print is very tiny and people have to squint to read it. How embarrassing is that when the person is hunched over, pushing up their glasses and staring at the your chest? It’s always safer to just print your first name, readable, with no smiley faces or hearts.
As an introvert, we’re sometimes wallflowers at these events. Standing with someone we already know or off to the side, observing. Kind of like in Animal House, the group of nerds and social rejects herded to the sofa out of the way. Nothing to see here. We don’t have to talk with people to fill our tanks, we wait for people we want to have conversations with, to engage. We’re not anti-social, but instead of needing to talk with everybody in the room, we’re selective, we go for quality conversations over quantity.
Have you ever had someone approach you, read your name, and they are sure they know you? You almost feel bad that you aren’t who they assume you to be. One guy described the person they thought me to be, and after they finished describing that person I almost wish I was them! I wanted to meet that person.
When I began the job I now have, I was known as the new Robyn. Robyn had been the one who sort of had the job I moved into. I say sort of, because the job I was hired for was different than Robyn’s, but to the uninformed, I was Robyn’s replacement, so I was the new Robyn. After some months of that label, I said, enough. I’m Mike. I was nice, but firm. It wasn’t the name as much as my desire to be accepted for who I was, not who I wasn’t. So when a new person moves into a position, I introduce them and correct anyone who uses the previous person’s name, other than in reference to the position. A new person has to get used to the entire organization, the least we can do it learn the person’s name and show them respect.
In junior high school, I didn’t really have a name, I was known as my sister’s little brother. Her teachers told me what a wonderful, successful student she was. No pressure here. Eventually, I established my own presence. Mark.