Whether we like to admit it or not we often learn from our mistakes.  In fact, making mistakes often means we’re receptive to improvement.  However, even when it comes to mistakes…there are exceptions.

Specifically I’m referring to people who say “I hope I don’t butcher this name” or “Not sure how to pronounce this name but here goes.”  Then as you’d expect, the pronunciation of the name isn’t correct or even close to correct.  Maybe this has happened to you or someone you know.  Since it’s uncomfortable for the speaker as well as others, here is some guidance:

  1. Do your homework in advance.  This means asking the individual how their name is pronounced.  This is a tremendous sign of respect and always appreciated. (Most of us don’t enjoy hearing our name mispronounced or butchered.)
  2. Restate what you hear.  If you take the first step I mentioned, I encourage you to restate what you hear to get validation that you heard correctly. Perhaps the person spoke in a low volume or mumbled.  That’s where verifying is useful and needed.
  3. Use available resources. Let’s say you can’t speak directly with the person whose name you’re trying to pronounce correctly.  Other options include: call the person’s phone and listen to the message where the person states his or her name.  Another choice is to call an administrative or support person to ask for their assistance in correctly stating someone’s name.  They’ll be flattered you asked and happy to help you with your request.
  4. Phonetic spelling.  Once you know the correct way to state a person’s name, you may fear forgetting it in which case write it out phonetically or how it sounds to you.  This is a helpful cueing strategy that works quite well.  (If you haven’t tried this before, you’ll be pleased with the results.)

We typically want to eliminate those “Oops” moments which tend to arise when we have an unfamiliar or challenging name to pronounce.  I encourage you to try these techniques to get improved outcomes.  You’ll feel far better and so will the person you’re mentioning or introducing.