I’ll just put it out there—my name gets screwed up a lot. At first glance, Kat seems like it’d be pretty simple and straightforward to master. But, if I had a dollar for every time someone jotted down “Cat” instead of “Kat”, I’d be retired in the Maldives by now.
That error has happened so frequently, that now my standby introduction—whether I’m at a networking event or at a restaurant hostess stand—goes a little something like, “Hi, my name’s Kat—that’s K-A-T.” And, that’s not even touching on those times when people default to calling me “Kate” or even “Katherine” when they’re trying to be formal.
Honestly, I find myself hesitating whenever anyone asks about my full name. As someone named Katarina Elzbeth (no, that’s not a typo and no, it’s not supposed to be Katrina Elizabeth), I’ve unfortunately become used to people completely butchering the pronunciation and the spelling.
Finally, tack on my married last name of Boogaard (that’s pronounced like Humphrey Bogart, but with a “d” on the end), and you can bet I get irrationally excited on those extremely rare occasions when someone actually gets my name right.
Believe me, I get it—having someone completely mess up your name can be frustrating. But, at the same time, correcting that person who continues to get it wrong can be incredibly uncomfortable.
Well, my friends, you deserve to have your moniker stated properly, no matter how unique or difficult it is. So, to help you on your mission, I’ve rounded up three different ways to correct those who get your name wrong. Take it from me—I live this life.
1. The Straightforward
Let’s start with the simplest of options first. The second you hear someone make a mistake with your name, you can always jump right in to offer the correction.
Yes, this will mean interrupting (which I normally don’t advise). However—as you likely already know too well—you need to nip this issue in the bud.
Cutting someone off mid-sentence can be a little uncomfortable. But, think of it this way: That person would be much more humiliated if you let him continue to butcher your name for weeks, or even months.
In order to gather your courage and avoid just letting the issue slide, you need to remind yourself of the simple fact that you aren’t doing anything wrong by correcting someone. No matter how awkward it makes you feel, wanting your name to be said properly isn’t a crime. So, stop feeling so guilty about it.
What it Looks Like
Person One: “Well, it’s really great to meet you, Kate. Have you—“
Person Two: “That’s Kat. Sorry to interrupt, Joe! Please, continue.”
2. The Sympathetic
Messing up someone’s name isn’t the end of the world. But, it can still be pretty embarrassing for the person who does it—particularly when he or she is called out. This is why it can be helpful to offer that person an excuse for the error.
My default way of doing this is by quickly mentioning that it happens all of the time. Just that simple comment makes that person feel like less of a schmuck for butchering your name, and also makes your correction a little more lighthearted.
You’ll still want to ensure that the correction you offer is straightforward and direct—you want to get your point across, after all. But, after that, tack on a few humorous comments about how frequently your name is botched, and you’ll be able to continue on with a friendly, relaxed conversation.
What it Looks Like
Person One: “Your work on this project is impressive, Katrina.”
Person Two: “Thank you so much! My name is actually pronounced Katarina.”
Person One: “Oh, I’m so sorry about that.”
Person Two: “No worries! It happens all of the time. I blame my parents.”
3. The Subtle
No matter how much advice you read or courage you attempt to muster, you just can’t bring yourself to outright correct that person who keeps screwing up your name. Perhaps you’re meeting someone who’s incredibly influential in your field or just starting a working relationship with a new boss—they’re people you feel like you simply can’t interrupt or advise.
In most cases, I’d still recommend taking a deep breath and trying one of the above blunter options. But, if you simply can’t jump in and do it, it’s time to get a little sneakier. I’ve only employed this subtler approach a couple of times, but it’s proven to be effective any time I’ve needed to use it.
How does it work? Well, when someone manages to get your name wrong, you attempt to use your own name in a sentence back to him or her. It’s not always the most natural thing to weave in. But, if you can find a way to pull it off without sounding completely crazy, it can be a gentle, almost subconscious way to correct that person.
Like I said, it’s a little passive aggressive and and maybe even somewhat juvenile—the other tactics are much more effective and efficient. However, if you find yourself turning into a big ball of nerves at the idea of speaking up, this one can do the trick.
What it Looks Like
Person One: “So, how did you find yourself on this career path, Kate?”
Person Two: “That’s a great question! After getting my degree, I took some time to think to myself, ‘Kat, what can you truly see yourself doing for the next ten years?’”
Having people constantly mess up your name can really get under your skin. But, that doesn’t make correcting them any easier. Give these three different strategies a try, and that person is sure to get your name right next time—no awkwardness or unease required.
And if you’re guilty of this yourself? Here are five tips that’ll make this problem an issue of the past.
What’s the worst someone has ever managed to butcher your name? Let me know on Twitter!
Photo of co-workers courtesy of PeopleImages.com/Getty Images.