What’s in a Name?

A person’s name is the one feature that will follow them their entire life. As children, we experience varying pronunciations beginning at school. Teachers are usually the first individual’s children encounter and may have a negative experience. For those who do not have a unique name, it is important to put yourself in the other persons’ shoes. It is a good practice is to ask the person how to pronounce their name prior to doing so; this demonstrates a certain level of respect and understanding for others. Your name is displayed everywhere, it is seen on a driver’s license, college transcript, car loan, house loan, resume, your office door…you get the picture. In today’s climate, virtual interactions require those to be more aware of the “simple” and “small” things. Many people with unique names have stories they can share of uncomfortable interactions that occurred in person with someone who has been dismissive or uninterested in pronouncing their name correctly. This too can occur in a remote and virtual environment.

Regarding employment (Need to change not sure what to say here), resumes are a tool to learn about an individual’s skills, knowledge base, and experiences; however, the name can be a hindrance due to unconscious biases. In classroom settings, some students may begin to experience anxiety if they feel the teacher is not going to try to pronounce their name correctly.

The history of names dates to prehistory, when descriptive names were repeatably used until they became a part of the culture. With the rise of Christianity, trends in naming practices manifested and the oldest of these names were Jewish and Greco-Roman. By the Middle Ages, the Christian influence on naming practices was pervasive. Today, therefore names such as Mary, Matthew, James, Anthony, Mark, Edward, and Richard, William, and Robert are popular.

It is important to remember that names tend to have an original meaning, usually descriptive, then a pleasing collection of sounds.”

Here a few tips to ensure we make those with unique names feel acknowledged and included.

  • Always ask how to pronounce a name instead of guessing or assuming
  • Be sure to address the individual frequently using their name as a sign of respect
  • It is understandable if you forget how to pronounce a name or are unsure
  • Remind yourself how you would feel if you were in that person’s position

 Follow Up Exercise – food for thought

Look up the meaning of your name.

Can you think of an experience when someone mispronounced your name? How did it make you feel? How did you address it?

Can you think of an experience when you incorrectly pronounced someone’s name? How did you react? What can you do differently?

Until Next Time