It happened again.
I was talking to someone I had just met when he stopped himself mid-conversation and said, “Oh my gosh, I just realized where I know you from — I saw your TED talk! Wait, let me start over and re-introduce myself… I have to say my name right!”
I have to laugh, because despite having multiple advanced degrees and over 25 years of public speaking, coaching, teaching, writing books, podcasting and more, there's one tiny thing I seem to be known for above everything else: the importance of saying your name so that other people can understand and remember it, and how to do it.
You may know that back in 2014 I spoke at TEDxPENN, because I thought it would be “fun,” (more on the reality of prepping for a TED talk another time.) To my great surprise, it did what every marketer dreams of: it went viral. My talk, “Want to Sound Like a Leader? Start by Saying Your Name Right” has over 6 million views and 2,048 comments to date.
But why this is so amazing to me is because so many people struggle with the same frustration: You introduce yourself and the other person says, “Sorry, what?” or completely mishears it (e.g. calls you Ryan instead of Brian), or otherwise smiles and nods politely, but clearly has no idea what you said, a gesture the Japanese lovingly refer to as the “shiranai furi,” a.k.a. “the know-nothing smile.”
Beyond the awkward social moment, however, the act of mispronouncing someone's name can have serious repercussions professionally, politically and beyond.
In case you missed the original podcast episode airing, Janet Salazar, President of the Foundation for the Support of the United Nations, shared how this can be one of the most important moments of daily life in her role, quite literally on a global scale.
In the podcast, Janet specifically shares one very public and inauspicious moment when she mispronounced someone's name and how she bounced back after that faux pas. She explained that pronouncing people’s name the proper way is a way to show respect and if you’re unsure about how to pronounce a name, the best way to do it is to politely ask them.
And speaking of showing respect and kindness, in the spirit of last week's 24-hour Reader influence challenge — to do something kind for someone — did you know that in 2019 PA Governor Wolf declared May 23rd a statewide Day of Kindness inspired by none other than Mr. Rogers?
To Fred Rogers, who was originally from Pennsylvania, the number 143 meant “I love you” (because the words had one, four, and three letters, respectively), and May 23rd is the 143th day of the year. Mr. Rogers also used the number 143 on many other symbolic levels as you can read here.
Yes, it was two days ago, but it's never too late to say “I love you”. So here's another challenge: think of someone who genuinely needs to hear those words, and tell them how much you love them. See, Mr. Rogers? You're still inspiring kindness even today.
Here's to your success,