Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

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The importance of names

ANY name can be mispronounced, mis-remembered, screwed up. I know from experience: the experience of someone managing to get "Chris Walsh" wrong. It was at an assembly roll call in high school. A man reading names managed to give "Walsh" something like two-and-a-half to three syllables, one of them another "A" after the "L." There was also a "Ch."

It probably wasn't just because of that, but at some point I got very sensitive to getting people's names wrong. Earlier, like around second grade at El Descanso Elementary in Camarillo, CA, some teasing people realized they could bother me by calling me "Welch." I got defensive and even at least once introduced myself rather snottily as "Christopher M. Walsh, and don't make fun of it." Even then, I was formal. I like to think I'm much less likely to get pissy now.

I became more aware of the need to get people's names right when I was in college. Was very happy when my South Korean roommate Jung-Min Kim said I was one of the few people at the school who pronounced his name correctly and consistently. On the flip side, at the same time I had a friend from Taiwan whose name I didn't learn until I'd known her for a year-and-a-half. It wasn't an easy name: it was pronounced "Hwi-Shi Shay," and to this day, I don't actually know how to spell it. For a year-and-a-half my friendship with her threatened to become a Seinfeld episode+. Thank goodness she was easily recognizable, and I got around not knowing her name for all that time, but still, there are better ways to interact with people.

I told you all that to share this, which popfiend shared: tips on how to remember people's names. I did my best to do these things when I was a reporter, meeting dozens of people a week. I got into the habit of saying "We've probably met, but let's reintroduce ourselves. Hi, I'm Chris." People responded well to that. People respond well to others making the effort to get their name correct.

+ "Mulva? Celeste? Aretha? Bovary? Gipple? [pause] DOLORES!!"

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