This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

If you’ve been to one of my workshops, you know I often assign something I call a 30-day experiment. The goal: to develop a new habit in an area of trustworthiness where you have the most room to improve.

During one program last year, participants tried a seven-day version. The results that a leader named Al got were fascinating.

Al’s experiment: on his morning elevator rides at work, he would alternate between greeting people on the elevator generically (“Good morning”) and greeting people using their first names (“Good morning, John.”) If he didn’t know someone, he’d (visibly) look to the person’s badge for help.

Without fail, each generic greeting earned a polite reply. And each name-based meeting resulted in a friendly conversation initiated by the person being greeted.

Al chose this experiment because I had asserted in class that addressing someone by name is a simple and profound way to accelerate trust-building. (Though to give credit where due, the elevator idea was all his doing.) Whether you use first names or title/rank as appropriate, this kind of name-calling makes your interaction more personal—instantly. (As a side note, it also helps you tune in.)

Charlie Green makes this point about the relationship between trust-building and time in one of his blogs: Trusting quickly is a profoundly common human behavior. We all make split-second decisions based on a variety of factors, few of which boil down to the kind of rigorous analysis we like to believe we follow.

If you don’t believe me or Charlie, just ask Al.

Make It Real

This week, practice referring to people by name in a variety of communications—verbal as well as written. Notice what’s different about the responses you get.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).