Stop saying these things when you don’t know how to pronounce someone’s name

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There is a lot in the name we discussed earlier The easiest way to deal with forgetting someone’s name—But what if you don’t know how to pronounce their names in the first place?

Getting someone’s name right is more than just politeness – it’s a matter of containment and respect. In an article about Harvard Business ReviewRuchika Tolchian, author Inclusion on purpose: A multi-pronged approach to creating a culture of belonging at workAnd It shares the tangible association that someone’s name has with how they are valued at work. Similarly, a Viral Post on LinkedIn From Damneet Kaur explains that mispronouncing someone’s name can make them feel left out and ostracized. These effects start long before the workplace: studies You have Found Students feel ashamed when their teachers fail to learn how to pronounce their names.

With all the different names in the world, we’re bound to spoil the pronunciation here and there. This experience is very familiar to immigrants and people with non-white or non-Western names in particular. However, there is a way to approach a new name tactfully, rather than making people feel less than or less. Next time you come across a name that you’re not sure how to pronounce correctly, here are some examples of what you shouldn’t say (and what to do instead).

Things to avoid saying when you don’t know how to pronounce a name

“I’m going to butcher this.”

We all get names wrong, but people use this phrase as a way to free themselves from expectations.

As someone who has said this unfortunately in the past, I understand the instinct of letting someone know that you’re apologizing when uttering. However, your attempt to be “shy” or self-deprecating does not have to come at someone else’s expense. If you announce that you’re going to slay someone’s name before you even try to say it, it sounds like you’ve already given up. Once you recognize the feeling that you’re going to slay someone’s name, you can channel this self-awareness into asking for the correct pronunciation.

“I’ll never get it right, can I call you by another name?”

If someone has a nickname they would like to call you, they will let you know. Otherwise, it is disrespectful to ask someone to change the so-called for your convenience.

“I’m so sorry, I’m the worst. What a fool!”

There is no way to know how to pronounce every name in the world. Don’t make much about it. There is no need for a tolerant and extended apology. These offers more to you than they are to the person whose name is mispronounced. What’s more, it usually ends up that person In a strange position of condolence you.

Your instinct to apologise is fine, but as a guideline, consider prioritizing the other person’s dignity over your own. Just ask for clarity and move on.

“Wow, this is so unique. What does that mean?”

Even if your intentions are good, you should still not highlight the name “Fred” too much. This can appear as a fetish of non-Western names, putting people on the spot and singling them out as “others”.

Think about it: Do you know what your name means, Jeff?

“[weird garbled mumbling]”

If you’re going to try to pronounce someone’s name, at least commit to trying.


Don’t skip a name you can’t pronounce.

To learn how to pronounce someone’s name, just ask

Tolchian “Working Humblely” He writes. If I get a name wrong – which is bound to happen – simply apologize and ask for the correct pronunciation. Tolchian says a good rule of thumb is to say, “I’m sorry I misunderstood this. Could you please return your name to me?” Then listen carefully to where the person is focusing, and where the discharges are. Repeat after them once or twice and no more. Thank them and move on

If you have the opportunity to bring up someone’s name before a meeting or announcement, put it aside and say something simple like, “Hey! I don’t want to misunderstand your name, how do you pronounce it?” Try to be proactive about rechecking people’s names before the meeting, whether or not you’re concerned about a particular pronunciation—it’s a strong habit to form.

Taking the time to say someone’s name correctly is a way to express mutual respect and courtesy, even if it takes a bit more effort on your part. We are all failed names, and we can all do better.


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