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Pronouncing names correctly is simple step in creating more inclusive atmospheres

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Posted at 5:07 PM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 17:13:45-04

There's a new focus on diversity and inclusion, especially in the workplace, schools and other organizations. One simple step we can all take to create a more inclusive atmosphere is to pronounce people's names correctly.

If you have a common name, you probably haven't given this much thought until now. But for many others, especially those who don't have white or Anglo-Saxon sounding names, having to introduce themselves can be difficult if it's not a welcoming environment.

Ruchika Tulshyan is the founder of Candour, an inclusion strategy firm. She says learning people's names and how they identify has always been important.

“Getting people’s names right is one of the most simplest, yet one of the most profound ways we can ensure people feel welcomed. Like they’re seen, like they’re heard, like they’re valued,” said Tulshyan.

Mispronouncing names can have some negative effects, especially if it begins early in life. For many, it starts when they're in grade school.

“Research has shown that when students have their names mispronounced by teachers, they start to feel a whole bunch of shame about their cultural background. Some of them even feel disassociated with their cultural background,” said Tulshyan.

There still hasn't been enough research to show what the effects are in people's adult life, but there have been studies about how this affects job seekers.

A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that applicants with African American names need to send out 15 resumes in order to get just one callback. That's compared to applicants with white names, who only needed to send out 10.

It can be difficult to correct someone if they're saying your name wrong. Tulshyan recommends gently correcting someone without making a big deal, and if you are meeting someone for the first time, simply ask them to pronounce their name.

“Once they pronounce it, there’s no need to get into a big discussion about what’s their name, what’s the origin of their name,” said Tulshyan.

If it's outside of work or in a more casual setting, it may be okay to ask about someone's name if they are already sharing some information with you.