Words of Wisdom: What’s in a Name?

Breanne Tepler

If you’re in your Junior or Senior year, I hope you are planning to attend several networking events. If you have no idea what a networking event is, stop everything you are doing and head over to Career Services in Tower Hall right now. At these events, you’re going to meet a lot of people. I want to share with you the importance of remembering names and leave you with a few tips on how to do that.

A couple years ago, I stopped at a coffee shop in Canal Park. The barista asked for my name and I replied “Breanne.” I went to the pickup area and stood there for what felt like half an hour, but was probably only seven minutes. They were calling several names before me which made sense because I remember waiting in a line when I got there. One guy wasn’t picking up his coffee when he was called, and it was really frustrating. Not only was I desperately under-caffeinated, but this guy had ordered the same drink as me and it was just sitting there, taunting me. After a couple minutes, and several other people getting their drink, it hit me. I walked up to the pickup counter and said, “Hi, I’m Brian.” Ugh. I’m not really Brian. I’m Breanne!

A famous Dale Carnegie quote reads, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” I get offended when people call me by the wrong name. I often am called Breanna with an “uh” sound at the end of my first name. Second on the list is when people add an imaginary letter “m” to my last name. My last name is Tepler, but for some reason people think it’s supposed to be Templer.

One way to prevent this confusion is to know what trips people up. I know that those two mistakes are made quite often. Therefore, when I am introducing myself, I’m very careful with how I pronounce my name, and I correct people if they say it wrong. I slow down and pause between my first and last name. Think about how fast you introduce yourself. You have stated your name out loud thousands of times. You probably say it really fast because you know how to say it. When you’re out there networking, the people you meet have likely never heard it before. So help them out, and speak slowly and clearly.

Another way to help avoid mispronouncing names is to show them how they should give you their name, and ask the person if you have it correctly. First, state your name clearly. This is called modeling behavior. You’re demonstrating or modeling for the other person how you’d like to hear their name based on how you’ve said yours. Second, after they state their name, simply repeat it with an upward inflection in your voice to indicate that you are seeking clarification. Like this:

Breanne: Hi I’m Breanne (pause) Tepler.
Bob: Hi Breanne, I’m Bob (pause) Johnson.
Breanne: Hi, Rob?
Bob: Bob
Breanne: Ah, I’m sorry about that– Bob. Nice to meet you, Bob.

People tell me that I’m good at remembering names. I actually have a simple technique to help me remember. In the example above, you’ll see that I start the conversation by introducing myself. Of course, that person will then introduce themselves to me. Then, the next thing I do is clarify that I have their name correctly. After that, I will repeat their name again by saying, “Nice to meet you, Bob.” Lastly, when the conversation is over, as I’m saying good-bye, I will repeat their name one final time. By now, I have heard them say their name, and I have repeated it back to them two-three times. Repetition is key to memorization!

Breanne Tepler is an Admissions Counselor in the Office of Graduate & Extended Studies and a current student in the Master’s in Management program.