Many of us act as if there’s nothing we can do about how well others say our name or how easily they remember it. Sometimes we act as if our own name is an afterthought, as if it doesn’t matter very much.
That’s a shortsighted mistake in my opinion, as well as a missed opportunity. I would like to make the case for why we should care about using our name mindfully in our first impression management and how to make it easier for others to learn, say, and remember our name.
Our name is part of our personal brands, so let’s use it intentionally. Our personal brand (how people think speak of us even when we’re not around) is something that all of us can and should mindfully, intentionally, and proactively cultivate.
In interpersonal encounters, our personal brand is initially built upon how we dress and groom, how we behave and carry ourselves, and how we speak (as well as what we say, of course). We actually begin making a first impression before we meet someone. It starts when we enter a room or the moment someone first becomes aware of our presence—when we make our first blip on their attention radar. But how we introduce ourselves becomes one of the very next impressions we make, and we can proactively influence this impression by being mindful of this opportunity and intentional about how we use it.
Our name forms a major part of our personal brand. We can’t control the name our parents gave us or that we gained by marriage. But we can provide others with a clear enunciation of our name, alternative names or nicknames, or helpful mnemonic mechanisms to help them be successful in saying and remembering our name.
Helping others with your name is generous and kind
We’ve all been there: We meet someone and they tell us their name, and we either feel nervous to mispronounce it, confused about how to say it (this happens with my ‘weird’ name a lot), or maybe immediately forget it (especially if it’s very common). It’s embarrassing, and many people feel challenged by this common experience. Back in a previous article, I shared ways to learn and remember other people’s names.
But we can help others overcome this embarrassing moment and show empathy for the other person’s task of learning our name. We can take the initiative to help them to be more successful in both saying and remembering our name as a great way to build our own personal brand as a generous, kind, and helpful person! Plus, making others connect with us more easily and willingly is something that helps us cultivate better quality, longer-lasting relationship. A win-win!
Tips for helping others learn and remember your name
Decide if you should give your first and last names or just your first. If you have a common name, always give your first and last name to make yourself more memorable and unique. At a U.S.-based networking event, for example, “I’m Jen” or “I’m John” might be a line spoken several times that evening by different people, but “I’m Jen Brodsky” or “I’m John Norman” is more singular and help set you apart.
However, if you have an unusual name (like mine) and your first name is already a mouthful, consider giving only your first name and save your last name for later. Let’s face it. No one will ever say, “Halelly Who?” (Caveat: There are different norms in different cultures around this, so of course defer to the common practices of the local culture.)
Consider a nickname. If your name has unintended or unwanted double entendres or meanings (especially if it is a non-native name in the current culture), you may consider using a nickname or slightly modifying your name to remove the unwanted impression it could make. For example, my husband’s name is David, but in our native culture he always used the very common nickname of Dudie. As you might imagine, Dudie (sounds like doody) draws giggles out of even the most well-intentioned mature North American adults, so in the United States he uses only David. Problem solved. On the other hand, if you’re like me and your name is just unusual and maybe difficult but doesn’t have any unwanted rhymes or meanings, you may want to stick with the helpful mnemonics (see below) and forgo using the more extreme tactic of using a nickname.
Pace, pause, and repeat. When introducing yourself, say your name slowly and enunciate it clearly to allow others to grasp it fully. If your first and last names create an unintended cocktail, pause between them a moment longer. For example, my friend Kay Lybrand does this so that others don’t hear her name as “Kayla Brand.” If you have an unusual name, you may want to repeat it (with a pause in between the first and second utterances), knowing that the first time might have had the effect of a virtual smack on the forehead and then flew right over their head, and the second time might land.
Give helpful tips and extras. If your name is common, consider providing an extra piece of information, an alliterative element, or a rhyme or metaphor to help make it more unique and memorable. For example, if your name is Bruce, say “I’m Bruce but I don’t know karate” or “I’m Bruce from Baltimore.” If you’ve got an unusual spelling or a name that’s different, give spelling or pronunciation tips. For example, say “I’m Caitlyn with a C and a Y” or “I’m Halelly, rhymes with Kelly.” You could even provide visual or audio aids on your name tent, name badge, LinkedIn profile, or bio. A woman in one of my workshops wrote her name phonetically on her name tent because it was often overwhelming to people (it was a multi-syllabic Malaysian name). I’ve recently added both phonetic and linguistic visual guides, as well as an audio recording of my name’s pronunciation at the bottom of my website's About page and on my LinkedIn profile.
Remembering others’ names is important, but being memorable yourself is equally key to managing your first impressions, personal brand, and relationships. Hopefully these tips help you take ownership of helping others be more successful in their attempt to learn, say, and remember your name.
What’s your reaction? What’s been your experience? Chime in below in the comments and let’s get a discussion going! © 2017 ATD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.