I don’t expect you to get my name right, but I want you to try: Why making the effort to pronounce names matters
My name feels like three awkward syllables that will never quite roll off your tongue. It’s Annika, and you pronounce it by saying the name “Ann,” followed by the name “Nick” and a moment of realization: “Ah.”
Not Aw-nih-kah, Aw-nee-kah or any other iteration you might be thinking of.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to explain that to other people, only for them to butcher my name the next time we meet.
Remembering any name is hard, and it’s harder when they’re uncommon like mine, so I don’t always blame them. But I still can’t ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach I get when people I’ve corrected multiple times before get it wrong, or when someone doesn’t seem to care enough to ask me.
My name is closely tied to my identity, and mispronunciations weigh more heavily on me than most people think. . .
. . .
Before writing this, I posted on my Instagram story hoping to find one or two other people who would be comfortable talking to me about their uncommon name.
Twenty-five people reached out to share their experiences with me, and 21 of them said mispronunciations have been detrimental to them in some shape or form.
. . .
That’s common, says Myles Durkee, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
People often perceive mispronunciations as subtle insults, put-downs or invalidations, Durkee says. And whether intentional or completely accidental, those types of microaggressions can affect a person’s mental health.
“They are stressors. Cumulatively, they have a much larger effect on individuals that can lead to negative correlations with mental health over time,” Durkee says.