At the County Fair, I noticed that some of the cows had human names like Marci, Mable, and Annie. Others were given pet names such as Cookie, Goose, and M&M. Still others just went by their ear tag numbers: 5531 or 5339, etc.

I wonder if it makes a difference in how the animals are treated. Maybe it is easier to sell #5531 vs. parting with your friend Marci. Or perhaps it is a matter of efficiency in keeping track of the individual members of the herd when using their tag number as their ID.

Whether consciously or not, I think organizations do the same thing. Some groups adhere to formality and call people by their given name. Other groups know their members so well that they develop nicknames or learn the preferred name of people and use those. Still other organizations are so large that they never make the personal connection and refer to people by their account number or some other numeric identifier.

Think of where you fall now — as well as where you would like to be. The 4-H farmers aren’t the only ones who deploy naming protocols. You set the tone by the name you use for others.

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