A few years back I attended a seminar given by an insurance sales professional on the topic of networking and influencing people. The fellow leading the session said that generally everyone will choose to do work or business with people that they like. The impression or feeling you develop about a person plays an important role in your decision-making process. Your level of interaction, and the time you are willing to spend with that person is directly proportional to how much you “like” the person.It’s obvious to most of us that how we feel about something or someone governs our day to day interactions. We are emotional creatures and as much as logic plays a role in our overall assessment of a situation, we tend to react more strongly when emotions and feelings are involved. This primal instinct can tip our opinion in favour or against someone/something in the blink of an eye.

Our name and how others pronounce it is hard wired into our emotional circuitry. It can be the initial trigger to turn our ‘feel good’ switch ON or OFF. Unfortunately, many of us neglect this basic emotional connection to our name and find ourselves brushing over this important consideration when meeting others.

This comes to no surprise for those of us with hard to pronounce or unfamiliar names. Our ‘feel good’ switch is turned on and off more often than we would like. In today’s multi-cultural society proper pronunciation (or mispronunciation) of a name plays a significant role when we encounter people of different cultures – an obstacle that the Mike’s and Mary’s of the world simply don’t encounter.

Perhaps the most important interactions are within the workplace. Companies spend significant resources to enhance communication between employees by hoping to create a positive, collaborative environment to impact company’s bottom line. Many companies now have well-defined diversity initiatives and policies to ensure cultural acceptance. Yet, for all the money that is invested in training programs and team building initiatives, we still find that the simple proper pronunciation of a name remains an overlooked aspect within many companies. Like a microscopic speck of rust, this neglect can grow to sink a vessel. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

So, next time if you are conducting an interview, or pick up the phone to make a sales call, pay particular attention to that person’s pronunciation of their name. And know that humans listen not with their ears, but their brain – where emotions also reside.

By simply getting a person’s name right the first time, you can stay ahead of your competition by throwing a person’s ‘feel good’ switch into the ON position. So ask the person’s preference how they would like to be addressed, and put a genuine effort into learning how their name is pronounced.

– Vigen Nazarian, CEO, ANTVibes