Having your name butchered is never fun. But there's rarely anything we can do other than take it in the stride. Yes, there were times where I did correct people from calling my name wrong. However, depending on the person pronouncing my name wrong, I ignore the butchering and smile. It is primarily because experience has taught me that most people rarely care about pronouncing others' names right unless they are impossible to pronounce. Besides communication is important in the workplace. Afterall, communication can make or break a leader and can create a great leader. But what do you do when you are in a similar situation? When you come across names that are difficult to pronounce?
The first thing that comes to mind in a situation like – People with complicated names; I reminded myself of all the times when my name was pronounced wrong and how it made me feel. The feeling was anything but superb. At times it made me awkward, especially at the workplace. It made me feel excluded when my colleague mispronounced my name wrong. And even though it was not affecting me at first, I started to experience internal cringe over time. I agonized over trying to learn about ways to correct people with wrong pronunciation. Therefore, I dug and found out why it is crucial to spell others' names right.
Yes, some people would never give importance to pronouncing other people's names right. Besides, William Shakespeare even said, "What is in the name?" But here is the deal. Pronouncing others' names right is essential mainly because people are from different places with different cultures where their names hold significant importance. You can offend people simply by mispronouncing their names wrong. Also, at the workplace, speaking your colleague's name correct is more than common courtesy. Putting effort into learning to pronounce others' names right shows that you value others. Furthermore, it even helps in developing an inclusive workplace.
My investigation further introduced me to a 2012 study that was titled – "Teachers, Please Learn Our Names!: Racial Microaggressions and the K-12 Classrooms." From there, I learned how mispronouncing names could affect people's social-emotional well-being and hamper their ability to learn. Significantly, for people of color, mispronouncing names could trigger a racial microaggression as people used such tactics to shame others and make them feel inferior and excluded. Therefore, it is essential to pronounce names correctly. However, a question remains – "What are the possible ways to learn to pronounce other's names correctly?" Fortunately, with all the digging around this issue, I have a few practical solutions to help you with it.
Following are some of the ways to pronounce names correctly. They are all simple and effective and can potentially save you from making situations embarrassing for others.
When people come across difficult names to pronounce, many people would simply play roulette and expect to get it right. However, you can count on yourself to fail in most of your attempts to get it right. Therefore, you should always avoid such random situations and instead rely on the most tested and effective way to get others' names right. You have to ask the person to pronounce it for you and listen to them actively. Furthermore, if that's a person you might frequently interact with in the future, then you can note their name phonetically. It will make things comfortable for the other person and pave the way for good things if that person happens to be your professional colleague or client.
There have been situations where I have come across people who pronounce other people's names wrong. Once they have heard the correct pronunciation, they will make a huge deal out of it by saying things like how unfamiliar they were with the name and, therefore, couldn't pronounce it right. My advice is never to take that path. Justifying the fiasco can only embarrass the other person more. Therefore, the best way to cover for mispronouncing someone's name is to ask them for the correct pronunciation. And once you get the pronunciation, move on from the topic immediately.
Now, if you are an introvert like me who always has struggled to approach people first, here is a way to help you from mispronouncing others' names. I call it "Observe and Practice." Initially, avoid taking their name and try to observe how other people pronounce the word. Next up, check the person (in question) and follow their reaction to conclude whether their name got pronounced correctly. Once you have identified the correct pronunciation, practice it a few times before calling the person.
One last finding I had from investigating how to avoid mispronouncing others' names is that you will end up mispronouncing the name on some occasions. It is an evitable event like Iron Man's death in the Avengers: Endgame, where you can make this mistake. However, you can always make a quick save from the situation by apologizing to the person immediately. Moreover, you can improvise by following up on the apology by asking them to teach you how to pronounce their name correctly.
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A lone wolf by definition, a writer by heart, and a lost star with ambitions to light up the dark both inside and around me, sometimes by immersing myself into books or video games or traveling with a backpack to an uncertain destination believing that life is all about the choices we make and we don't.