A study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem indicates that people’s faces look like their names.[1] Not only do names affect how people see us, but they influence our own self-images, even causing us to adopt habits, clothes and hairstyles that fit the images the names evoke.

Some names seem more persuasive than others. In a business meeting, whose ideas would you take more seriously, Eleanor’s or Bambi’s? Of two negotiators, Brutus and Charles, which would inspire you to put on your mental boxing gloves before he even opens his mouth, and which would you approach with an open mind?

In my writing, I refer to the “Image” chapters of Beyond Jennifer & Jason, and its 2004 update Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana, to choose names that evoke my vision of my characters.

So if you’re naming a baby, I’d say keep the child’s options open. Choose a conventional no-nonsense name. If Charles becomes a comedian when he grows up, and doesn’t like the gravitas his name evokes, he can adopt the nickname Charlie or the pet name Chuckles. But what can Bambi do if she wants to succeed as a neurosurgeon?

Middle names provide options. Eleanor Giselle might use her first name in business, but want her spouse to call her by her middle name when they’re alone. Or she might use Giselle as a professional actress but Eleanor when negotiating the price for a new car.

But what about the names we’ve already got. Should Murgatroyd risk offending the grandfather he’s named after by changing his name?

Not yet. First, Murgatroyd uses the persuasive communication skills he learned from my books to tactfully broach the subject with Grandpa. He might find Gramps perfectly understanding and agreeable to the change.

Or maybe they negotiate a change from “Murgatroyd” to “David Murgatroyd,” retaining the family name Murgatroyd while providing a more conventional name, David, to actually use.

If he and Grandpa can’t agree, Murgatroyd looks at his best “Walkaway Alternative,” or as I call it in Bridges to Consensus, his “Plan B.”[2] First he lists his interests:

  • A conventional name that evokes a dignified but down-to-earth image
  • Stay on good terms with Grandpa

Then he lists possible Walkaway Alternatives, things he can do on his own, without Grandpa’s agreement, to satisfy his interests. To put it another way, what can he do if Grandpa won’t budge and Murgatroyd has to “walkaway” from the negotiation table:

  • Have people call me by my first and middle initials, M. P.
  • Have people call me by my last name, Thompson
  • Wait till Grandpa dies, then, change my name
  • Go ahead and change my name now

He chooses the one he feels will best satisfy his interests–his best Walkaway Alternative or Plan B. Whichever he decides, Murgatroyd will have made the decision in a mindful manner calculated to bring the best results and least regrets. That’s just what Walkaway Alternatives and Plan B are for. Read more about them in Love on the Rocks with a Twist, “Study Notes for ‘What’s the Twist,’” p. 4.

[1] “Do We Look Like Our Names? New Research Says Yes,” GoodNewsNetwork.org, March 5, 2017

[2] Chapter 12, “But What If…?”