Posted by Epiphany
Michael had just placed our order at a juice bar. Moments later a girl appears holding our drinks. She calls out “Mike?” – and I shoot a scowl her way. Mike? I know he didn’t give her that name because his name is MICHAEL.
I get why the name change happens at the juice bar. But I don’t get why this happens socially. Michael clearly introduces himself as Michael only to later be called “Mike” – in both professional and social settings. And he despises being called Mike.
When someone introduces themselves, they generally give you the name they want to be called. Calling them something different is like calling them an entirely different name. When you call Michael “Mike”, he doesn’t hear “Mike”, he hears, “Elmer”. And it makes him cringe.
Michael has been written up as “Mike Brown” in newspapers and professional publications distributed to huge audiences. Mike Brown was named as UCI’s newest board member. Mike Brown received plaques of honor that Michael doesn’t display. Mike Brown has done awesome stuff that Michael wanted memorialized under a name he actually uses.
Please don’t assume the standard nicknames are okay (i.e., Becky instead of Rebecca). We don’t give someone a cutesy nickname before we get to know them, because that would be weird…. So don’t do it to Rebecca, Robert or Elizabeth. The nickname can feel distinctly different and foreign to the person; which might be why they don’t use it.
This is Social Skills 101. Calling someone a different name tells them that you don’t listen or care. Some may not mind, but I know many who feel slighted or disrespected from the very start. I know some who long to be rid of a childhood nickname because it represents them being a child and not an adult. Some nicknames are reserved for one’s “inner circle” of closest friends or family.
“There is no sweeter sound to any person’s ear than the sound of their own name…” – Dale Carnegie
Think these people are over-reacting? Our name is the most important word to us. Nothing is worse than being called a name you hate. How would you feel if people kept calling you Mort or Gertrude after you introduced yourself as Grace or Tyler? For some people, that’s what it feels like.
Some people love the elegance and sophistication of their name exactly as it is… Jonathan, Alexander, Jacqueline, Remington are beautiful names! Charles and Chuck just don’t have the same vibe… so don’t use them interchangeably.
And when you feel close enough to someone to want to call them something else… whether it is Mike or Spunkmeister – please just ask. Ensure someone is ok with whatever name you call them. Which is why I need to remind “Mike” to stop calling me “Bunny Nut Cheerios”.
Michael loves his name. And it means a lot when others love his name exactly the way it is.