The other night during a podcast recording I totally psyched myself out on pronouncing a name. We even practiced right before we started recording. And then we got to where I make introductions and I blanked. I knew I was going to say it wrong so rather than just using her first name I fumbled thru a jokey explanation of why I wasn’t going to try. Ugh. Get it together Wendy. And apologies to Dr Karlyn Borysenko, and thank you for putting up with that!
This is one of the reasons I’m not a fan of traditional networking. Ice breaker games usually involve the name game. And yes I realize that I have a self-fulfilling prophecy here. I immediately freeze up and just know I’ll do terribly, so of course, I do terribly.
Naturally, I took to Twitter to ask for tips. A couple of folks suggested coming up with a rhyme or mnemonic device to help remember. Which is just something else to remember! [I swear I’m not just trying to be difficult.] My favorite suggestion came from Suzanne Lucas who suggested we just all wear name tags all the time and eventually, we’ll just learn the names. I’ve worked for a lot of hospitals where we were required to always wear a name tag and I LOVED IT. So it solves half the problem.
I read a lot growing up. And now that I have children, I love reading aloud to them. But, um, yeah, some words I have no idea how to pronounce out loud. And there are some that I have an pronunciation in my head (incorrect) and even if I have heard it aloud I still might say it wrong (Hermoine, every single time). I love this blog post from the New York City library, mostly because I know I’m not alone!
I went through a phase where I got pretty good at figuring out how to pronounce names (thank you airline customer service), but I’ve definitely fallen out of practice. We even talked about that a little bit last night. And you know it’s embarrassing.
I was thinking about it last night and have figured out why this happens: I’m self-centered. I’m not paying enough attention to the other person, but only how it relates to me. I played back what happened last night and how I could get it wrong, even after practicing: once we were done practicing, I told a story about me and how awesome I used to be at names, but have fallen out of practice. Guess who the focus was on? Yup, me. How to say Karlyn’s last name? Gone. And why was I good at it when I was doing airline customer service? Because I was focused on the customer.
So, here’s where the rubber meets the road. I need to be better at this. I’m switching the focus and will be better at names, both remembering AND pronouncing. The focus is now on You, person I met with the odd name that isn’t pronounced liked it’s spelled. I will get your name right and I will remember it. (self-fulfilling prophecy here we go!) And please hold me accountable if you see me mess it up.