Do You Butcher Names Like This?

by Paul Castain on October 7, 2013

Do you take assumptive name privileges?

An “Assumptive Name Privilege” is taken any time you assume that you know, definitively, what someone wants to be called.

Meanwhile you haven’t been told, nor have you asked and you certainly haven’t been given permission!

It occurs when you turn a Katherine into a “Kathy” or “Kat”

Perhaps a Robert into a “Rob” “Robbie” or “R to the O to the B to the E to the R to the T”

And morphing a Richard into a “Dick” is just asking for trouble!

This is a classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”


Because if I call Katherine “Kat” but she prefers Katherine, I just went all informal on Katherine and struck out.

If I go all formal and meanwhile she’s “Miss Casual ‘Kat’” then I just struck out.

Oh and thanks to several creative folks who like to trip up the world, what if she pronounces it “Kathereeeeeeeen” or something. Then I really strike out.

Actually I put that one on her . . . tripping me up like that! As if I don’t have enough things to make me look like an idiot.

So what’s an aspiring rock star to do?

First and foremost, you must never make an assumption. Doing so makes an ass of u and mption. To that end . . .

1)   If you’re calling a prospect, consider calling their direct line during off hours. Hopefully you get their voice mail and it clears it all up.

2)   When you receive an email from someone, take a minute to scroll down and see how they sign off. This works brilliantly with social networking invites too by the way.

3)   Ask . . .  But Take Ownership Of The Awkwardness. If you feel funny asking what someone prefers to be called, put it on you. Example “Forgive me if this is a silly question, but your name is important to me. Do you prefer to be called Deborah?” Now if they respond with “What? How the hell do you assume ‘Deborah’ when my name is Thomas?” either run away really fast or learn to fake a heart attack.

You need to do your part too!

Make sure you make it easy for others to call you by your preferred name by . . .

Signing off that way on emails, invites etc

Using that name on your voice mail

Consider your nick name in quotes on your business card, social networking profile etc.

Dale Carnegie once said that “the sweetest sound, in any language is the sound of one’s own name”

It’s always that much sweeter when we get it right

Your turn . . .

Are you ever the victim of an “assumptive name privilege? Have you ever seen others do this and how about you? Have you ever done this?

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    Oh, man, can I relate to this. My real name is Francey-it is not a nickname. Every day of my life, I have to correct people, explain it and even apologize for it not being Francine. I do not understand why people can’t get it, and continue to call me names that I hate: Fran, Franny, Tracy, and even Marcy!! Thank you, Uncle, from a devoted fan!!

  • Richard Field

    Thanks Paul. It is often the small details that can derail an opportunity. I tend to lean toward the formal side until I have heard how that person is addressed by others. I have also found that very few people are offended if you ask them directly (but politely) what they preferred to be called, The scanning email signatures etc. is indeed helpful. Richard (who hates being called Richy Rich)

  • Adam Aurich

    Also, worth some talk…people’s names from country’s you may not even be able to point out on a map. You can’t find their country much less pronounce their name. No worries. I found a great website. It is a work in progress as the developer is relying upon people to add their name pronunciation, but it has really helped me when talking to people who may not have the most traditional names.

  • paulcastain

    Thanks Adam! Going to check out that site!

  • Maria

    I have to say I never considerd this metter as important I don’t mind people saying my name in 1000ways and I mean it, I heard so many versions of it…. Why anyone would worry about things like that?

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