Ever Had Your Name Mispronounced?
If you saw the name Mhaira on a list of people attending your meeting, and you had never met that person before, how would you expect to pronounce their name?
Myra? Maria? Marra? Something else with a ‘Mmm’ sound at the beginning?
I had exactly this situation for a workshop I was running and guessed it would be the first of those…but it turned out I was completely wrong.
When the person arrived and introduced herself she said, “Hi I’m Mhaira – it’s like ‘Barry’ but with a ‘V’.”
It took a few moments to get my head around the fact her name was pronounced entirely differently from what I’d assumed. But after mentally repeating ‘Varry’ a few times, I got the hang of it and was able to say her name properly. (Which as anyone who has read this blog before knows, is something that matters a lot.)
Give people a helping hand
The tip here is: this woman knew her name was unusual – in the UK at least – and wanted to make sure people felt comfortable saying it. So she took the positive step of offering a way to remember it, which created a positive impression of her personal brand in my mind.
(As opposed to another person I met with a name that was pronounced very differently from how it was spelt. They fully expected others to know how to say it and got mad when they didn’t. I’ll be honest and say their personal brand came over as a little egotistical.)
Make it memorable
There are also names that, whilst they would seem to be easy to remember, people can have a hard time lodging in their brain. For instance, a guy on another workshop called Wei (pronounced pretty much as you’d assume: Way) said some of his colleagues kept getting it wrong.
I asked what he’d done to help them and he looked at me puzzled. “Well, why don’t you say, ‘My name’s Wei – as in I did it my way’. I’m pretty sure that’ll help.”
Clarify the options
It’s not just names with an unusual spelling (at least to Anglicised eyes) that are worth clarifying. Even common names can be pronounced different ways, so it’s worth telling people your preference. Or flipping that on it’s head, it’s worth asking someone what their preference is.
I was having an chat with a woman called Claudia about possibly delivering a keynote speech at her event. We’d not spoken before, so at the top of the conversation I said, “Can I just check – how do I pronounce your name? Clawdia or Clowdia?”
She replied, “Thank you so much for asking. So many people get it wrong. I tell people, ‘It’s Claudia – like a cloudier sky – not like Claudia Winkleman.'” It helped get our conversation off on the right foot and I went on to get the booking.
Do you have an unusual or easily mispronounced name? If so, what do you do to help people get it right? Or how do you go about getting other people’s names right? There’s a comment box below ready and waiting for your answer…
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