A person’s name is music to their ears. Correctly pronounce someone’s name when you greet them and you instantly make a connection that’s emotionally and physically empowering. Because it’s an audio, visual, and kinesthetic experience you quickly convey a sense of psychological belonging and inclusion. *
Belonging is one of the 4 pillars of a meaningful life presented by Emily Esfahani Smith in The Power of Meaning – The True Route to Happiness. (The other pillars are purpose, transcendence, and storytelling.) Pronouncing someone’s name correctly is a mark of respect.
On the flip side, mispronouncing someone’s name instantly short circuits the connection. Studies of K – 12 classrooms in 2012 concluded that mispronouncing the names of students constituted a racial microaggression by creating shame and disassociation from their culture. How many students witness these infractions grade after grade and learn that correctly pronouncing someone’s name isn’t important and unintentionally carry that belief into the workplace?
Jennifer Gonzalez identifies 3 kinds of people:
If you are a calibrator, bravo. Continue leading by example.
If you aren’t a calibrator, become one with Ruchika Tulshyan as your guide. Vow not to be arrogant, flippant, or lazy and get to work using the ideas she outlines in her article If You Don’t Know How to Say Someone’s Name, Just Ask:
When people mispronounce your name, try this:
At the Berklee College of Music in Boston, international students represent close to 28% of the student population. At the many commencements I’ve attended, I am always impressed by the care presenters take to correctly pronounce the name of every single graduate, faculty member, and guest.
Inclusion starts with us. Work to get names right and enjoy turning personal interactions into opportunities to make the genuine connections we all enjoy.
*John M. Yeager, Ed.D, MAPP