If giving your name to a new acquaintance results in a look of confusion, or you struggle with the names of new contacts or co-workers, you won't be surprised that research shows people have more positive reactions to names that are easier to pronounce. A review of five studies in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that ease of pronunciation accounted for 40 per cent of immediate likeability. Yeesh.
Image: Gunnar Pippel (Shutterstock).
Whether your own name is difficult for people to pronounce or not, the best advice for all of us is probably to keep this silly but reflexive bias in mind and not let it affect our impressions of others. One simple way to lessen the impact: Work to learn how to pronounce names that give you trouble, something we've discussed learning via HearNames.com or YouTube.
Many people adopt a short, easy nickname for business introductions, including resumes and business cards. Careers site The Ladders suggests including a phonetic spelling of hard to pronounce last names on resumes. Another, sometimes irksome compromise (adopted by many in my family): Just let common mispronunciations slide.
If that 40 per cent figure is distressing, don't let it bother you too much. The researchers were quick to point out that the studies took place in a setting with a lot fewer variables than a typical first meeting. Also, whether participants considered a name long or "foreign" had much less impact on first impressions, unless the name was also difficult to pronounce. The researchers did find a correlation between easily pronounceable names and career advancement, but it was a much more modest 1.5 per cent.
Have any tips for smoothing introductions or handling hard to pronounce names? Let us know in the comments.
The Name-Pronunciation Effect: Why People Like Mr. Smith More Than Mr. Colquhoun [Journal of Experimental Social Psychology via Wired]