August 2, 2011

Bill Clinton’s Secret Trick/s

The seemingly nice Whole Foods employee was wearing a nametag which read “Gaetan.” So I said, “Thank you Gaetan I appreciate your help.” I pronounced it “Gay Tan.” I’m the kind of guy that likes to call someone by name when they’re wearing a nametag.

The guy looked at me stone faced and said, “It’s pronounced Gay-toe. It’s a French name.”

So I tried again, “Gay-toe, thank you I appreciate your assistance.”

He corrected me again, “The accent is on the ‘toe’.”

This guy was kind of a jerk and I am very non-confrontational so I said, “Gah-toe, seriously, I’m sorry.”

He replied, “It’s not Gah-toe, it’s not Gay-tan, it’s Gay-ToE with an accent on the toe. How would you like it if someone called you Gay Dave instead of Yay Dave?”

I was stunned, “First of all, Gay Toe, it’s Yeah Dave, not Yay Dave, and how the heck do you know my name??!?!”

“Because Gay Dave, I took your yoga class before. And it SUCKED!”


I’ll often refer to Bill Clinton in my yoga classes and speeches. Not because of his controversial ways, but because he is widely considered one of the most effective communicators in the world. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has met Bill Clinton will tell you about his otherworldly magnetism and powerful presence. What I find most interesting is Bill Clinton’s supposedly incredible ability to remember names.

It’s not just names. One former White House intern, Phil Gerbyshak, shared some of Clinton’s other tricks for masterful communication. As excerpted from Gerbyshak’s blog:

1. Clinton made physical contact.

On many occasions, he would place his hand on your shoulder, back, or forearm as he spoke, passing his energy on to you kinetically.

2. Clinton told a story.

This was far less intrusive — and way more effective — than making his point directly. And his story would always evoke specific emotions from the listeners — laughter, anger, compassion — that would help them connect with what he was communicating.

3. Clinton chose his words wisely.

Never once did I catch President Clinton taking the verbal low road, slinging slang with disregard. He carefully selecte every word to create just the right expression he was looking for.

So therein lies the answer. When you can’t read the name on the nametag, reach out and touch the person on the shoulder, back, or forearm. Tell them a story. Smile. Chances are they’ll appreciate your warm touch.

In a world in which we are increasingly disconnected from other human beings and more connected with our gadgets, it’s time to ponder the notion of humanity. As I share in my book Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin the Moment, people want to help, support, and connect with those who remind them of their humanity…who bring them closer to the moment. Something to remember next time you’re about to interrupt an important meeting to check emails on your iPhone.

As Maya Angelou said, “People never remember what you say, they never remember what you do, but they always remember you how made them feel.”

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