I spent a delightful hour reading "Hello, My Name is Scott: Wearing Nametags for a Friendlier Society", by Scott Ginsberg, yesterday (while waiting for a McCrea wine tasting to start). Scott has worn a nametag every day since October 2000 because "it makes people friendlier and more sociable and also helps them remember my name."
I earlier posted a bit about Scott's front porch philosophy; today I want to elaborate on another topic Scott covers: reciprocal self-disclosure. One of the many interesting recurring reactions Scott has encountered is that people are more likely to verbally introduce themselves to him, presumably because he has already visually introduced himself (via his nametag) to them.
This reciprocal name exchange is an example of self disclosure, which is the act of making yourself manifest. The reason people are significantly more willing to give me their names as soon as we begin the conversation is because self disclosure is reciprocal respective to the level of intimacy that you have revealed. In short, when you tell someone something about yourself, e.g., your name, they will be likely to tell you that same thing about themselves.
Googling "reciprocal self dislosure" reveals a number of studies that have explored this topic, including one focusing on Internet surveys and another focused on sexual satisfaction ... and I imagine it's only a matter of time before a study of reciprocal self-disclosure in sexually-oriented Internet sites is conducted. Scott considers his entire life to be one grand experiment, and while his experiment may not have the scientific rigor of some of these other studies -- although he does report on what might be considered an ablation study wherein he goes without his nametag for a week -- he far exceeds them in longitudinality.
This morning, after reading an article in the May issue of Worthwhile Magazine about "How Full is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life", by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton, I believe another way of thinking about this reciprocity might be "reciprocal bucket-filling" -- nametag-inspired conversations allow the conversants to fill each other's buckets with positive energy. Towards the end of his book, Scott shares a story about how he was lifted out of a bad mood through a conversation with a stranger that was triggered by Scott's nametag. I'll wait to elaborate further on this theme until I have a chance to read the bucket book.