An important method of working in solidarity with those around you is to start with one of the first things we learn about each other, our names. In our workshops, we facilitate a partner activity called “Name Story,” where participants choose and answer various questions about their names. The questions get folks to discuss various aspects of their names, such as “What is the phonetic pronunciation of your name?” “Do you like your name? Why or why not?” “Does your name hold any special meaning for you or people you’ve known?” We use these questions to connect the individual and their name while showing names are more than a way to identify someone. We encourage using this activity with your teams or colleagues as a way to strengthen team bonds and demonstrate the value of our names. Then, on your own, consider using some of these questions to ask people around you about their names.
Asking the correct pronunciation of someone’s name often validates and shows respect for someone's name. Rather than trying to say a name you are unfamiliar with, ask the person, or someone close to them, how to pronounce it. Actively listen and repeat after them once or twice.
Asking and clarifying names are also an important measure to move beyond referring to everyone by gender pronouns. By replacing “she said..” with. “Anisha said…” you are able to consider a person beyond their gender or assumed gender.
Correct colleagues or those around you if they mispronounce or use an incorrect name respectfully and privately. For example, try saying, “I think it’s pronounced…” This is an important role in allyship as this takes the onus and emotional labour off of the individual to tell and/or correct everyone around them.
If you make a mistake yourself, say something right away. For example, “I’m sorry I mispronounced that. Could you please repeat your name for me?” or “Sorry, I meant (insert name).” If you realize after the fact, apologize in private.
Take time and put in the effort to practice pronouncing and learning someone’s name (aloud and in writing). First, make an effort to hear how someone says their name to other people. Then, write down a note for yourself on how to pronounce it correctly and practice it in private.
Encourage people around you to put their name pronunciation on places like LinkedIn, biographies, emails, and/or conference/event badges. Try Name Drop - an app that allows you to make a recording of yourself pronouncing your name. You can link to their recording in a range of places, or you can share it with people on a case-by-case basis. Check out ours!
(Un)learn expectations for people to keep their “dead name” or change their name to a more “simple” version such as a nickname or “English” alternative. Doing so embraces experiences, cultures, languages, and histories that may be unfamiliar to your own.
This blog is not meant to be a static guide, but rather a compilation and reflection of our learnings to date. Everything changes - from technologies and innovations to social norms, cultures, languages, and more. We’ll continue to update this blog with your feedback; email us at email@example.com with suggestions.
This blog was written collaboratively by members of the Feminuity team.
If you wish to reference this work, please use the following citation: Feminuity. "Tactical Ways to Show Respect for Names"