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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: The Name Tag Theory

I have a lot of theories. I create theories to explain phenomena in my life. Sometime you will have to ask me about my Cockroach Theory. Today, however, I would like to discuss my Name Tag Theory.

Many years back while I attended a teacher training in Ottawa, Kansas, I did some shopping in the little town square. As I paid for my purchases, the counter lady addressed me by name.

"How do you know my name?" I asked.

The lady pointed to the name tag hanging in a holder around my neck. Oh, of course. I still had my institute name tag on. I immediately cast back to the recent encounters I had just had with the local community of Ottawa, Kansas, which is a small rural area. Fortunately, I was unable to think of any embarrassing or unpleasant behavior on my part. Whew, good thing, because if I had, the folks I might have been unpleasant to would likely have remembered who I was and might even have mentioned it to the Institute Director. After all, it was a small community, the Institute was a well known, years old event in the community, and the Director was a prominent and well known member of the community. Someone could have mentioned in passing at the local grocery that they had met an unpleasant person who had attended the Institute, someone named Paula Bird. Yikes!

Of course I intend to be pleasant and helpful with everyone I meet, but we all know how frail our intentions can be when we are hungry, tired, frustrated, or in a hurry. We mean well, but we all have had moments when we were less than perfect in our dealings with the world outside of our home (let alone, our dealings with the members of our own household, but this is another theory and blog post discussion).

I considered removing my name tag, but I thought better of it. I liked that wearing the name tag around my neck made me more conscious of my behavior in public (once I realized that I was wearing one). I liked that my name tag reminded me to use proper courteous behavior, even when I did not feel like being proper or polite. I wore my name tag proudly throughout the entire Institute and was amused by how many folks addressed me by name. Sometimes I even wished that everyone else wore a name tag!

I wonder if the world might change a little bit for the better if we all wore name tags. I believe that name tags would help us to remember how to be courteous to each other. That is my Name Tag Theory.

Today, why not put my theory to the test? Write up a name tag and wear it. If someone asks why you are wearing a name tag, you can use the opportunity to explain that you are testing out my theory. Carry around a few spare name tags and offer to make up a tag for every person who asks you about yours. Be sure to let me know how your day goes and whether you notice anything different in it.

Recently I attended a major donor event for a music festival, and we were encouraged to write and wear name tags. Frequently, folks would visit with me and ask, "Why does your name tag say 'donkeys, dachshunds, and alpacas' on it?"

I also find it amusing to use my name tags as conversation starters.


  1. Paula, what a wonderful idea!

  2. Did you get a chance to try it out? Did it work for you? I think we should designate every first Monday of a month as "Name Tag" day. Think it will catch on?

  3. That was really interesting reading. name badges are always helpful an also maintains personality too. I loved your theory indeed :)

  4. I think I'll consider a variation to a name tag. How about wearing a small badge or pin of some kind that "advertises" our interests? Maybe a little violin, dachshund, or alpaca (in this case, probably all my friends will think it's a llama). What do you think, Brian and Diane?