For those of us with names that are unusual to the people around us, we may constantly face the question of “Do I correct this coworker who has been pronouncing my name all wrong or do I let this go?” You may choose to stay silent about the slight, but names are a big deal.
How we address one another is how we show the most basic form of respect to each other. Letting your colleague or client continue to mangle your name can lead to resentment for you and embarrassment for others. No good employee wants to call you by your wrong name.
Here’s how you can be proactive about telling others about how you want your name to be said and spelled:
If you know your name is going to cause confusion, you can preemptively stop confusion by including phonetic hints of how it should be said. Fiction writer Celeste Ng’s Twitter handle makes it clear on how you should say her last name: “@pronounced_ing.” I have a friend who includes “keir-ah” in her social media bio to not get confused with how singer Ciara (see-are-uh) says it.
These clues can be included in your bio or as an email signature to make it clear from the beginning about how you want to be addressed.
Bring it up at the moment
It may feel awkward to interrupt the flow of a conversation with a name correction, but bringing it up in the moment can help you prevent future awkwardness. If someone says your name wrong, etiquette expert Diane Gottsman recommends using this script: “Thank you so much. Actually, my name is [ ]. People confuse it all the time! It’s so nice meeting you as well!” By making it a part of the rhythm of a greeting, you take the focus off of the error itself while still getting your point across.
For your own peace of mind, give the name-offender the benefit of the doubt; they are not usually trying to mess up your name on purpose, so do not waste too much energy wondering why it keeps happening. Focus on how you can help people get it right, so you can go back to doing your job.
At the same time, do not be afraid to assert yourself. If coworkers keep getting it wrong, stand up for yourself and say what name you would appreciate being called. If it is a repeat offender, Amy Cooper Hakim, author of “Working With Difficult People,” recommends bringing it up directly in a private space. You can even provide a helpful memory clue to help your colleague remember the right pronunciation like: “Boss, I’m not sure if you realize it, but my name is actually not pronounced ‘Ahna.’ It’s pronounced, ‘Anna,’ like banana.”
It may be socially awkward to tell someone they have been saying your name wrong for weeks, but it should not be a hard conversation to have. In order to get on a first-name basis with a colleague, you first have to actually know how to say their name. Good colleagues who want to build a relationship with you will welcome the opportunity to correct themselves.