What to Do If Someone Mispronounces Your Name

For most of my life, my name was pronounced incorrectly or with errors, apparently by everyone who was not familiar with its cultural significance. Often they replace it with something more common (Alicia) or something similar (Asia), without realizing their mistake. But persistent mispronunciation (or getting a nickname because your name is “hard” to pronounce or remember) are examples of name-based micro-aggression that can cause anxiety when introducing yourself, and perhaps even evidence of indifference to your feelings. it is tantamount to bullying. This can leave you feeling completely demoralized, and ignoring this behavior will only allow the abuse to persist.

Rita Hawley , assistant professor of education, society and culture at the University of California, who studies the effects of microaggression on humans, told NPR , “[t] changing people’s names has a racial history … justified the renaming [it happened] during slavery. This practice is directly related to racism. ” When these steps are repeated, mispronunciation becomes the accepted norm, continuing the cycle. Here’s what you can do to combat it.

Be honest

If someone mispronounces your name, watch out for it. Feel free to interrupt them by correcting them or letting them know how to pronounce it correctly. Note the importance of the correct name. Podcaster Kay Roy , co- host of RadioActive Youth Media , said: “Interrupting someone to say, ‘This is Kay, not Kay’ does not annoy me, it’s me putting my foot on the racist machine, and then in turn by creating an environment where owning your name is the norm, not the exception. ” The act of correction signals to this person that the pronunciation of your name is important and that they must learn it. If you receive such a fix, please be careful. If you are unsure how to give someone’s name, ask. Don’t make assumptions, and of course don’t just give the person a nickname that makes it easier for you to remember.

Anticipate common mispronunciations

Having to constantly correct someone at work or in a formal social setting is frustrating and as a result it can become difficult to maintain your professionalism. In these situations, you can be assertive, but not rude. (Outside the professional setting, the reaction is at your discretion). Fast Company offers to solve in advance any problems that people with your name may have. For example, introduce yourself with the correct phonetic pronunciation. My friend always introduces herself as “Lacretta with the letter E”. This encourages people to say “La-Crete-a” instead of “La-Crete-a”. Becoming Ziv , who has written about workplace discrimination for Muse, noted that this type of repetition helps people capture correct pronunciation and memorize it effectively as they move forward.

Have an unforgettable conversation about your name

Take it a step further and talk about your name in more detail. By telling the story of your name, you give the power its cultural meaning. It doesn’t have to be about teaching the other person a lesson (since it’s not your job to be an ambassador for your culture – if you don’t want to be). Rather, it is about preventing potential problems by having a memorable conversation about your name and the correct way of pronouncing it. If the person you are talking to takes turns sharing the history of their name, even better, yours will become even more entrenched in their memory. We all need to feel the power that our names give and be confident in our relationships with those who mispronounce them – whether because of a rash mistake or because of a constant disregard for our feelings.


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