Names are personal. In fact, there are few things more personal than the way in which people refer to us through our name. That’s why getting someone’s name right matters .

Using a person’s chosen name (and pronouns, for that matter) is a form of basic courtesy and mutual respect. It’s also one clear way to show you take #inclusion seriously at your organization. Most of us would likely agree that incorrectly spelling or saying someone’s name the first time could be considered a forgivable mistake, but continuing to misspell or mispronounce someone’s name, especially after they’ve already corrected you, would be just plain rude. And in the workplace, that kind of behavior can easily turn into hurt feelings, disrespect, decreased communication, and broken relationships.

So, how can you work to be better at getting names correct? We are sharing a few great ideas from the Better Allies newsletter (and a few of our own!) to help you and those around you to learn to spell and pronounce someone’s name correctly:

  • Repeat someone’s name when you first meet them.
  • Ask the person to pronounce their name for you more than once so you can listen and learn it.
  • Ask someone to spell their name, which can help commit it to memory.
  • Ask someone to tell you the story behind their name – where did it come from, does it have a special meaning, etc.
  • Jot down the phonetic pronunciation of someone’s name when you add them to your contacts.
  • Practice the person’s name when they aren’t around.  Say it to yourself a few times or record yourself saying it correctly and playing it back before then next time you see them.
  • Ask for help from a friend or colleague who knows how to pronounce the name correctly.
  • Make a note of something to remember about a person when you meet them, such as a pet, family member, or hobby they mentioned.
  • Try to associate the first letter of their name with someone about them to help you remember their name (eg. Tall Tara, Charismatic Carla).
  • If you have an upcoming meeting with someone and are unsure how to pronounce their name, search online for “how to pronounce NAME.” Chances are you’ll find videos or audio recordings. Of course, since there can be multiple ways to pronounce a name, you should also pay attention to how someone introduces themselves when you meet them.
  • Download a ‘sounds of name’ pronunciation app on your phone or other device (many are free!)
  • Use a name pronunciation recording tool to normalize the process of sharing how we say our names, even if we think ours is easy to pronounce. LinkedIn has one, and you can also add a recording to your email signature.

To learn more about how name usage and personal pronouns can make a difference in your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts and your workplace culture, explore our previous blog posts: