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CommunicationResiliency & attitudeWords

What’s in a name? I’ll tell you what …

By May 14, 2013 January 21st, 2020 No Comments

A rose by any other name … well, you know the rest. The rose may smell as sweet as it ever would with a different name, but if you were told it was a “turnip” before you smelled it, your expectation would most certainly be very different.

A name says a lot.

Whether it’s the title of your business, your position, or your newborn, names have emotions and feelings tied to them. Like, for example, the name of our great-niece, “Kya May”. Now, that name may not have meaning to you, but it sure does to me. Let me tell you why.

In my presentations about communication in the workplace and particularly about handling workplace challenges, I often offer a system to flip a negative into a positive. In the way of illustrating this point, I sometimes relay the very personal story of what I saw as a major negative in my life. I share how my husband and I had always wanted to have children and, in spite of years of miscarriages, exploring medical interventions, and waiting four years for an adoption call from Children’s Aid Society (we never got one), we remained childless.

My 40th birthday was a pivotal one.

It was a defining moment in my life because I always had promised myself that if we didn’t have children by that time, we would stop trying. That was the right choice for us, though I completely respect the different choices of others. For me, although it was a conscious decision of choice, it still stung. The reality of my life being rewritten and was overwhelming. I had exercised my options, controlled what I could, and now, I had earned the right and privilege to let it go. I just had difficulty doing so.

Several things came to pass in the years that followed, and I learned even more from them. But this story isn’t about those lessons — that’s for another time and place. This moment is about names and the meanings they impart.

Fast forward a decade or so. My husband is off to play a gig with his jazz quartet shortly after we’d received the call that our niece was in labor. He asked me to be sure to call him if I heard any news about the much-anticipated birth.

Two hours later, the phone call came.

It was the new proud father, our nephew-in-law, who chirped into the phone, “We had a baby girl!” Oh wow, that’s fantastic, I replied. “She was 9 pounds, 8 ounces”, he continued. Oh my goodness, way to go! And then the tired voice of my niece in the labor room piped up and announced, “We named her Kya May”.

“May? You named her ‘May’?”. Yes, they replied then repeated, “We named her Kya May”.

I was speechless (and trust me, for a professional speaker, that’s really something!). Why did this name move me so? Simple. You know me as Marion Grobb Finkelstein. My nieces and nephew know me simply as “Aunt May”. Kya May was named after me.

The impact? I feel humbled. It makes me want to be a better person. I feel like, even though we have no children of our own, a piece of me will live on. And it reminded me of the power of words, especially names.

What names are you giving people in your workplace?

Call someone something often enough and they become it. Call them brilliant, and suddenly, they come up with great ideas. Tell them they are “a wonderful leader”, and they begin to lead. Start telling yourself you’re gifted and you begin to realize that you really are.

William Shakespeare had it right — “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” … but the name “rose” sure tells you what to expect. And so do the names you give others and yourself. Just ask Kya May.

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Marion Grobb Finkelstein
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