everyone at work is hanging out without me

Here is the second post in the collaboration I did with Jennifer Peepas from CaptainAwkward. Part one is here.

1. Everyone in the office is hanging out without me and it feels like high school

I work in a very clique-y office where I am just not in the main clique. I have a coworker who is sort of in the same boat and we have bonded over it, but she’s still more in than I. These people tend to organize outings outside of work to which I am not invited, but where as far as I can tell they include everyone I work with. I’ve sort of just been ignoring it, but now they keep talking about their plans, how much fun they have, etc while I’m in the room. Look, I understand if you don’t want to invite everyone (though it’s still quite hurtful frankly) but can’t they at least keep it a secret if they don’t want me involved instead of rubbing it in my face? I feel like I’m in high school again. (For the record I am in my mid-thirties). And I feel like crap. Look, I’m on the spectrum, and I know that means I will often have to deal with being the outsider, but this just seems unnecessarily cruel. Am I overreacting?

Jennifer: When social interactions among adults ping the old “OH NO, NOT HIGH SCHOOL, NOT AGAIN” radar, a good question is: Are people being mean or are they being lazy? Mean happens, certainly, but when in doubt, start with lazy. As in, maybe people are purposely excluding you (not everyone has to become free-time friends with coworkers) but it’s also incredibly likely that people assume that someone else already invited you and that if you don’t come to a particular thing it’s because you didn’t want to.

And I’m talking about the merest blip of a thought, a second or two of wondering “Should I invite Fergusella?” “Eh, but they never come to stuff” and then moving on with their day. The longer this goes on, the easier it is to mirror these bad assumptions, and perversely this applies to people feeling comfortable talking about events in front of you. “Everyone’s invited, the more the merrier, I don’t have to make it explicit” or “Well, Fergusella would say something if they really wanted to come, right?” feel easier than changing anything. Your coworkers aren’t thinking about ableism, your history of being left out, or the very real worry that speaking up could expose and codify a probable afterthought (lazy) into an explicit (mean) choice probably because they aren’t thinking about you all that much in the first place. “They just forgot me” probably doesn’t feel less awkward than “They just don’t like me,” but it leaves more to work with in changing the situation.

Speaking of implicit vs. explicit: If literally every single person in your office is going across the street for after-work drinks and talking about it in front of you on the regular, there’s a 99.99% chance that you are and have always been invited and people assume you already know that. If you’d feel better knowing for sure, you won’t make it weird by asking, “Hey, is this invite only or can I join you?” If people are mean in response, it’s because they are mean people, not because you did anything wrong by trying to clarify it. (Now, if it’s a weekend and people are gathering at somebody’s house, that’s different: Like vampires, coworkers need to be invited.)

Before you do anything, an important question for yourself is: Do you want to get to know these specific people better and become friends with them? Do you want to not only be invited but to actually go to more of these things? If so, one strategy might be to choose one or two the kindest, friendliest people in the group and invite them to a very occasional solo lunch or coffee. Not from a “Why does nobody ever invite me?” angle but from a “I’m trying to be more social in 2020 and you always seem so nice and fun” angle. “I’m trying to be more social in 2020” is a useful script because it communicates that you want to hang out with them in a way that doesn’t blame them for leaving you out in the past. Once you know people better and have a one-on-one relationship, it’s less risky to have conversations like “Do you do bowling karaoke every weekend? It always sounds so fun, is it ok if I tag along once in a while?” Or even, “Hey I’m autistic, and have kind of a terror of poking myself in where I’m not wanted, so it really helps me when people turn ‘Anyone up for lunch?’ into ‘Would you like to get lunch?’ That way I know for sure I’m invited.”

Is it less about these specific people and more about generally feeling left out and lonely? Then that’s probably a sign to work on your friendships and social life in general, inside and outside work. You’ll be able to let the chit-chat about what the office is up to go by much more easily if you’re having great weekends doing exactly what you like.

One thing I always want to tell fellow adults who may have a history of being bullied and left out: Hosting and event planning is a lot of work, and it’s not generally something the Popular Kids(™) we remember from school do as adults specifically to torment each other. Those dynamics certainly exist, I definitely believe any horror stories any of you might tell me about people in your office who think recreating school cafeteria seating hierarchies is the social pinnacle of achievement, but I think it’s good to remind ourselves that most extroverts/outgoing/social folks are doing what they do because they *want* to include and enjoy people.

Additionally, extroverts get social anxiety too.(Will people actually show up? Will they have fun? Will there be enough chairs? If I didn’t invite people, would anybody think to invite me?) They also get burnt out and feel unappreciated. If you’re trying to break into a social hub at work or outside it, it might help everybody leave high school behind to stop looking at the organizers as powerful gatekeepers who have it all figured out, and stop assuming that you have nothing to offer them. When you are invited to things, assume people want you there, enjoy yourself, offer to help if you can, and most of all, notice and appreciate people’s work in planning and hosting. It’s easy to dunk on Mandatory Office Fun, but going out of your way to say “Thank you for putting this together, that was the best sheet cake yet, need a hand cleaning up?” can win you allies on the Party Planning Committee for life.

Alison: And thus a perfect answer was written, and will be one I link people to for years to come.

I’m not trying to be lazy, I promise, but this is so comprehensive and wise and I feel I can do no better than joining in presenting it to the world.

Jennifer: Well, thank you. I obviously have a lot of feelings about this. :)

2. People tell me how my name is pronounced (wrong)

I have a name that’s pretty common, but has multiple pronunciations. I pronounce my name the less common way, and usually when I meet new people they pronounce it the more common way. When I try to kindly correct them (“Oh, I actually pronounce it like Cahr-a, not Cair-a”), more often than not people push back. Everything from “Well, all the Caras I know pronounce it the other way” to “That’s weird” and “I wouldn’t spell it that way if I pronounced it like that.”

I try to be patient, but this annoys me to no end. Partly because I am 100% sure I am spelling and pronouncing my own name correctly, partly because I have had this conversation no less than once a month for 20+ years. I know people don’t love being corrected, but I do my best to clarify kindly with a smile, and struggle to keep that smile when the umpteenth person in my life tells me that my name is weird.

I don’t want coworkers’ first impression of me to be “Woman who has no sense of humor about her name,” so more often than not these days I just don’t correct it and skip the discussion. But then if a coworker I’ve worked with for a while does notice that I introduce myself differently than how they’re saying my name, they’re annoyed I didn’t correct them sooner. I feel like I can’t win!

Any advice for language I can use to correct mispronunciations and shut down pushback without getting defensive? It’s especially challenging when it’s someone like my grandboss or senior executives telling me how I should pronounce my name.

Jennifer (Captain Awkward): I’m a Jennifer who everybody wants to call Jen or Jenny the second they meet me, so, solidarity! I know that tension between “I do not want to ruin this friendly moment” and “But that’s not my naaaaaaaaaaaaaame arglebargle.”

There has to be a path between the pompous guy I went on an extremely doomed date with who introduced himself by pre-correcting everyone (“Hi, I’m David, DaVID) and the time I was 22 and my 55-year-old boss kept calling me “Jenny” because his last assistant was Jenny and I asked him not to about 100 times and then I finally snapped in a meeting and called him “Tommy” instead of Tom in front of our grandboss and a client (“Oh Jenny will get that right over to you” “Sure thing, Tommy!”*), right?

You are already doing the right thing by smiling and gently correcting people when they mess up and your best bet when they make it weird in a professional setting is to keep smiling but also keep insisting. “Oh, I get that all the time, but really, it’s Cah-ra, thank you so much” and then skip as quickly as possible to the work topic at hand. The vibe to aim for is “No worries, it’s an easy mistake to make, and I am going to do you the magnanimous kindness of forgetting all about it and pre-thanking you for doing the right thing.” Most good people will want to get it right from now on and people who don’t take the face-saving out you gave them are showing you something about who they are, ergo you won’t be the one making it weird if they keep doubling down on awkwardness and you get real humorless for a minute. The social contract insists that we call people what they want to be called no matter what our assumptions are, and if it means getting corrected sometimes, then it means accepting correction with kindness and grace.

*You know what? I can’t recommend this strategy as the most professionally diplomatic one, but it only took being called “Tommy” once for a middle-aged cisgender guy to be reminded that names are important and it matters how we use them especially in professional settings. He could feel how disrespected I’d felt for himself, and he did take it to heart. After a very awkward moment in the meeting and a wee lecture on professionalism, he sincerely apologized, and my new work/Jellicle Cat name JennyohcrapI’msorry-iFER! became a running joke between us.

Alison (Ask A Manager): Yep, matter-of-fact and breezy and moving on is what you want here. As if now that you have clarified that you do indeed know the correct pronunciation of your own name and it is not the one they want it to be, of course they will accept that and not make it into a whole big thing, because of course they would not be so odd or boorish as to do that.

That’ll work with most people. Anyone who continues dwelling on it after that point is being rude and weird and you are allowed to say react accordingly, with a reaction that conveys half “how strange” and half “how embarrassing for you that are responding this way.” Like a puzzled look and/or a very dry “okay then” followed by an immediate pivot to a work-related topic.

I think some of the frustration here is probably just having to go through this so many times with so many different people, even if most people aren’t all that rude about it. It’s just exhausting to have go through “wait, is it X?” / “no, it’s Y” every time you introduce yourself.

Read an update to this letter. 

3. Coworker won’t stop talking about her diet

My small-ish office has monthly meetings that start with a personal check-in. It’s a time for people to share news about vacations, babies, etc. For the last few months, one of my coworkers has shared news about her diet. What she’s eating, whether she’s lost weight and, just today, how many pounds she’s lost! She talks about all this in other settings around the office as well.

Like many people, I struggle with disordered eating, and hearing her talk about losing weight constantly is unpleasant. Even if that wasn’t true, I think this is still really unprofessional. She hasn’t responded to me pointedly ignoring her or even (jokingly) saying that I didn’t want to hear about whatever she was eating. Can I address this with our supervisor? How should I phrase this? I’ve tried to let it roll off my back but it has been really difficult to cope with.

Jennifer: I wish more workplaces agreed that diet talk and obsession with weight is unprofessional, unfortunately the trend toward making employees wear fitness trackers and participate in humiliating (and discriminatory!) weight loss competitions makes me despair of getting a consensus around that any time soon.

You’ve tried ignoring your coworker and jokingly saying you didn’t want to hear about her eating, which are good strategies to start with. Since it hasn’t stopped, before you make it a supervisor issue, what if you stopped joking? Could you pull her aside for a private direct conversation before the next scheduled meeting? A script could be “I can tell you are so excited about this diet and you had no way of knowing this, but hearing about weight and diets can be triggering and very distracting for people recovering from eating disorders. Can you update us about something else fun that’s going on with you at the next meeting? I would appreciate it so much.”

If you focus on that specific meeting (vs. trying to monitor all her conversations in the office) and keep it personal (vs. “this is generally unprofessional”) it will help you figure out a few things before you take it to a supervisor level. Is she willing to listen to you? Does she try to curb herself at all? Or does she double down in the meetings and escalate in the office? National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is coming up February 24-March 1, and maybe your human resources team needs a timely reminder to spread the word about the importance of showing sensitivity by not talking about diets and weight loss in professional situations because we never know who is struggling.

Alison: I love this advice. I co-sign it heartily.

So often people try delivering a message via joke, it doesn’t work, and then they feel stuck. There’s nothing wrong with starting that way — sometimes the other person does successfully receive the message that way, and framing it as a joke lets them save a little face and lets you both avoid a potentially awkward (or at least more serious) conversation. But if the joke doesn’t work, that’s a sign that you’ve got to move on to a more direct conversation if you want to solve the problem.

I can see why you’re unsure of how to do that here though! It feels weird to ask someone at work not to talk about a topic of personal interest to them, especially in a culture that seemingly loves talking about that topic. And you might worry she’ll feel you’re shooting down something that is a source of real pride/joy/satisfaction to her. That’s why I love Jennifer’s wording — it acknowledges that the topic is legitimately exciting and positive for the coworker, explains why it’s landing in a different and harmful way for you, and asks to enlist her help. It doesn’t tell her she’s doing anything wrong, which is really key. It’s just “this is affecting me differently than you realized.”

And yes, if that doesn’t solve it, at that point it’s reasonable to raise it with your manager (or, if your manager isn’t especially skilled at this kind of thing, then with HR).

{ 511 comments… read them below }

  1. Threeve*

    #2: Find a rhyme! “It’s Anna, rhymes with ‘sauna'” or whatever works for your name is going to be so much easier than just reminding people of the right pronunciation. And then your reminder/correction is going to seem much friendlier if you can casually drop in a cheerful “rhymes with ‘sauna,'” when it comes up.

    1. Mid*

      Yes! My real name is a now fairly popular consumer product, so I’ll introduce myself as [Name] like the [Product]. Easy for people to remember, and it stops the endless stream of jokes about my name—because I said the joke first.

      1. Ms. Cheetoh*

        Very similar to the advice I shared below! I’m also a brand-name baby and my go to is “Cheetoh, yup, just like the chip. Anyway-” And a very quick shift away tends to shut down any jokes.

        (I’m not actually named Cheetoh but the brand is just as recognizable)

        1. Sparrow*

          I’m similar (not a brand name, but an actual thing, like Brandy) and that’s my go-to approach when people find it confusing, which is surprisingly often.

          1. PeanutButter*

            My last name is a noun of something you can eat. I am constantly amazed at the lengths people go to to NOT spell it like the food item, even after I’ve repeatedly told them, “My name is Peanut Butter, like the dairy product.”

            Then I get to the conference and find my name tag says “Peanut Bootre” or something.

            1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

              My maiden name was Spanish for a common English name, and was spelled almost exactly the same except for one letter missing (like Cristina/Christina or Ana/Anna). It was a nightmare, I’d constantly tell people it was Cristina with no h and they’d put the h anyway and then wonder why I wouldn’t respond to their emails. The main reason I changed my name when I got married was to not have to deal with this crap anymore.

      2. Tiffany Aching*

        My former last name is a common small appliance brand, and actually rhymes with one of the products. So I found [Name] like the [Product] especially useful!

      3. Emmeline*

        I do this too. My last name is literally “Santa” but gets mispronounced as “Saaaanta” quite often. People tend to assume the surname is Spanish on paper and get visibly confused upon seeing a pale/freckly red-head. A simple “Oh it’s actually Santa, as in Claus” and moving on quickly with a small laugh works great. Finding a way to approach it with an air of light humor definitely helped quell any frustration I had with encountering the same situation with my name being mis-pronounced over and over again. It’s more amusing for me nowadays than anything, but I definitely got lucky in that no one fights me on how it’s ‘supposed’ to be pronounced once corrected. Much sympathy for OP #2 there.

        1. LMM*

          Oh man. I have this issue, where people pronounce one of the vowels in my name the way it would be pronounced in Spanish (“ay” instead of “ee”). Which is fine, but that’s not how my name is pronounced. Compounding this problem is that a very popular song contains the version of my name that IS pronounced with the Spanish-sounding vowel. It is often assumed that my parents named me after the song; this assumption is incorrect (but would be WAY more convenient as an explanation of pronunciation).

          I need to come up with some way – perhaps the rhyme will finally do it – of correcting people on my name without screaming “IT’S PHONETIIIIIIIIIIIIC.”

          1. Zudz*

            I had a friend who’s name would be pronounced one way with an ñ, and another way with an n. When people would pronounce it with the accent we used to joke “He’s not hispanic enough for an eñe.” This sometimes led to a brief confusion where we would explain “It’s Montana, not Montaña.” and then we would all laugh politely and move on.

            If you /are/ hispanic, then that might not work for you. Just a thought.

            1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

              I had a Spanish maiden name but I am actually from SE Asia so no one in my family says it the Spanish way. I never minded when an actual Hispanic person pronounced it the Spanish way, but I would fight the urge to roll my eyes so hard whenever a non-Hispanic person tried to say it with a Spanish accent.

          2. Xarcady*

            I have a Scottish last name with a double “L” in the middle of it. I used to live in an area with a very large Hispanic population. Lots of people had trouble pronouncing my last name because in Spanish, the double “L” has a sound more
            like “E.” I’d also get startled looks when I’d say my last name and then spell it out at an office or whatever.

            But my coworkers were great and taught me some Spanish and I can correctly pronounce a lot of Spanish words that I have no idea what they mean.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        Goodness, yes. I share a name with a popular app/company… on the down side I get so sick of hearing jokes about my name (or at one conference, being mistaken for a rep from TheirCompany). But on the plus side everyone I meet can spell it for the first time ever!

      5. Coldfeet*

        I’ve seen an interview with Saoirse Ronan, where she explains the pronounciation. “It’s Saoirse like inertia”. Worked for me!

        1. Sandan Librarian*

          Wow, that’s actually really a great way to remember that pronunciation. I’m glad you shared this.

      6. Coldfeet*

        I’ve seen an interview with Saoirse Ronan, where she explains the pronunciation. “It’s Saoirse like inertia”. Worked for me!

        1. MelonHelen*

          Ever since that interview, I’ve never heard her name mispronounced. Even at the Oscars last weekend, they read off the nominees and her reaction was very “Hey, they got it right!”

          1. Foal of Gumption*

            This is quite funny to Irish people because many of us argue that this isn’t even the correct pronunciation of her name. All the Saoirses I’ve known from school and work introduce themselves as “Seer-sha”.

            1. Simonthegreywarden*

              But isn’t this back to the point of the letter – it doesn’t matter how YOU think it should be pronounced, it matters how SHE says it is pronounced.

              1. Foal of Gumption*

                Yes, you’re absolutely right. She can pronounce her name however she likes.

                She’s doing no favours to all the other Saoirses of the world though, being so high profile.

        2. pandop*

          I think my example of that is from the outgoing Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu. In response to a query about the correct pronunciation he replied, right-moo, left-moo, centre-moo.

          I have a surname in common with a famous singer, so some people get it right straight off, but also a varient spelling is a major toiletries brand, which is not so helfpul.

      7. Mel 2*

        My last name is a crazy spelling of a fairly common name, which just so happens to be the name of the building where I work. So I enjoy saying, “[Name], like the building but spelled completely different!” (There are a lot of creative spellings of my last, but I’m in the top tier of “What were they thinking on Ellis Island?” range of spellings.)

        1. Ashley*

          My last name was also misspelled at Ellis Island or wherever my great-grandfather was when he first arrived in the United States. The current spelling is just one letter different from the last name of a character on a popular TV show. Since my last name and the TV character’s name are pronounced the same, it often gets misspelled.

        2. TardyTardis*

          My last name is a common barnyard animal, but apparently has more alternate spellings than I thought it did. So it’s “llama, like Dalai Llama”, occasionally with a small barnyard noise just to nail it down.

      8. Tafadhali*

        On the flipside, my sister rarely had issues with people understanding her name (Tessa) growing up, but now gets “Tesla” about once a week in the age of Elon Musk.

        (This used to happen once in a blue moon but only with people genuinely enthused about Nicola Tesla, who is great, so it was hard to get worked up about.)

        1. Queer Earthling*

          I’m also a Tessa, and one of my school friends had a little brother who called me “Tesla coil” whenever he saw me, which was delightful. I prefer that to “Tess” and “Tessie,” both of which are like nails on a chalkboard to me. Tessa. It’s not difficult.

          1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

            What is it with people thinking it’s ok to add the –ie/–y on the end..? You want to be very, VERY close to someone before you attempt to turn their name into a cutesy pet name! Gross.

            1. Simonthegreywarden*

              Also, even if people DO turn it into a nickname…why pick the y/ie?

              Cosigned by a person with a common first name, who uses a different nickname for it, and who would NEVER in a million years want to be called nickname-ie even though that’s what a lot of people default to!

          2. Tess with no A*

            Hah, you’re my opposite! I’m a Tess and people have SO much trouble with it. No, it’s not Tessa. Not Teresa. Yep, it just says Tess on my birth certificate. It also doesn’t help that when I have a first-name-last-initial email address it literally says “tessa”… and forget ordering takeout or making reservations. I just use my middle name. It’s nearly impossible to get peopleto understand my name over the phone if there’s any kind of background noise, even when I spell it out. I’ve gotten many a sandwich labeled with “Teff”…

            1. Tess with no A*

              Oh, and guess what my middle initial is? E. And “Tess E. Surname” sounds a hell of a lot like “Tessie Surname”… a nickname which I also hate with the fury of a thousand suns. There’s a reason I don’t use my middle name for anything but takeout orders!

            2. Charlotte Collins*

              Like Tess of the D’Urbervilles. (An English major would never get your name wrong. Especially if their specialty is Victorian lit.)

      9. Quill*

        One of my great.. grand aunts? Was named Viva.

        Not Veeeva, the paper towel, but Viva, like the first part of Vivacious.

        She never had trouble until the paper towels came out. ;)

      10. Going anonymous*

        My family name *used* to be easy to explain to people because the first half is “Shea” — but Shea Stadium was torn down so long ago now that my youngest co-workers don’t remember it. And shea butter just feels weird to cite in a professional setting.

    2. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      My favourite one of these is the British Archbishop of York, who used to say that his surname was Sentamu as in left moo, right moo, centre moo.

    3. bassclefchick*

      That’s EXACTLY how I learned to pronounce Saoirse Ronan’s name! Watched the SNL episode she hosted and she said “rhymes with inertia”.

      1. 2 Cents*

        And now I know how to pronounce it, after saying it (only in my head) in some mangled “say-or-ee-se” lol

      2. Bee*

        My sister’s name is the similarly baffling Irish name Mairead, and that was exactly how my mom handled it: “rhymes with parade.”

        1. Timothy (TRiG)*

          Huh. It wouldn’t even occur to me that that name was puzzling. I can see people being confused by Ciara, Aoife, and Saorse, and of course Maedbh, but I wouldn’t have thought of Mairead in the context of names tricky for non-Irish people to pronounce.

          1. Lawyer*

            I’d be inclined to pronounce the last syllable the same way I pronounce the verb “to read” – it would never have occurred to me that it was a long A sound.

            1. Carlie*

              And I looked at it and made it two syllables, so the whole name was 3 – Mare – ee – add.

              The problem is that vowels have such different rules depending on both origin language and dialect, then add personalized ways to pronounce them on top of that, and it’s a right mess. You end up with “i is like a long e and so is y but only sometimes and in this language this is a single phoneme but in that one it’s two and in this other one it’s only one but different than the first one.”

          2. alienor*

            My daughter has a name that’s common in England, but not where we live, and she gets a lot of mispronunciations and misspellings…but she also has a friend called Aoife and says her own struggles pale in comparison to what Aoife goes through on a daily basis!

              1. Vincaminor*


                There was a tumblr (I think) devoted to what people with Irish names go through in the wider world. My favorite was the Caoimhe who just told the barista her name was Ann.

    4. Cahra not Caira*

      LW here–I think I’m still scarred from trying that as a kid and having kids call me ‘sauna’ indefinitely!

      I don’t think people get hung up on what the pronunciation is (in my case, at least), just being corrected. I think the key–as Jennifer and Alison noted–is pivoting quickly to a new topic rather than leaving room for discussion. Thanks!

      1. Sparrow*

        I think this is definitely the key thing! I have a friend who always responds to push back on her name with a joking, “Well, that’s a conversation you’d have to have with my parents. It’s always been Tah-ra!” before quickly moving the conversation along. It seems to work pretty well.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Ooo I like that. When my daughter was learning to read & write and questioned me about names, my common refrain was “All bets are off when you’re spelling or pronouncing a name. We’ve just gotta ask [the person] how they want it.”

      2. Nonke John*

        They may not be bristling at being corrected so much as trying to explain themselves because they’re afraid you’re offended. That’s obviously not true of obnoxious people who say your name is weird or otherwise imply that you need to be sent back to the Cara factory and stamped “IRREGULAR”. But for those who seem apologetic while explaining that they know multiple other Caras who pronounce it Caira, just acknowledging that you know it’s the less-common pronunciation and an easy mistake to make should be enough to reassure them that you won’t jump on them if it takes them a while to get used to it.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          Yep. And when I’ve said something similar, “Oh, all the Cara’s I’ve ever known went by Cair-uh,” I’m clumsily signaling that I’m probably going to trip up on your name several times in the future because my brain sees “Cara” and spits out “Cair-uh”.

          At my new job, the admin for our team is Anna. She pronounces it “Ah-nuh”. My dad’s girlfriend of two decades is also Anna, but she pronounces it “Ann-uh”. I told Office Anna this when I met her. The two times I’ve slipped up at work, Anna has good-naturedly joked, “I’m not your dad’s girlfriend!”

          I genuinely want to get it right, but sometimes I’m on auto-pilot.

          1. Editor*

            For a while, I worked as a substitute teacher at a rural school south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but not in the Deep South. I am sympathetic to people who want their names pronounced the way they believe they are pronounced, but not especially sympathetic when they’re offended by an initial reading that follows common pronunciations or standardized English pronunciation traditions.

            For instance, there were two black students and one white student in the high school named Shanae. The white student pronounced her name “shanna.” The other two used the pronunciations “shaynuh” and “shahnay.” Since I only saw these students occasionally in classrooms with different mixes of students, it took a while to get the right variant for the right kid.

            Then there was Camilla, who insisted that the only way that name could be pronounced was “cameluh” to rhyme with Pamela. There was a Marcia, who when I called her “marsha” got offended and informed me she was “marseeuh.”

            There was the male student who complained that everyone got his name wrong and left out part — and I had to break the news to him that the legal spelling of his name had two syllables even if he thought it had three (think of a name “Kashkuuh” that he had been told was pronounced “kashaka”). This discussion took place in front of the entire class because he was so belligerent about it, but the grumbling died down fast after I pointed out how his name was actually spelled —apparently no teacher had ever laid out why reading from the roll led to the “mispronunciations.”

            There were a couple of students with apostrophes in their names. I still don’t get the random apostrophe naming tradition, especially when it is used as a substitute for an accent mark that has real phonetic function, but other times is just decoration. I think in some languages, the apostrophe symbolizes a glottal stop, but it doesn’t seem to be used that way in the U.S.

            Then there are the other common pitfalls. I went to school with a couple of boys who had been named after their fathers. The school records had their legal names, but their families called each of them Butch. Where I was substituting, there were a couple of boys called Junior and two or three with third-generation inherited names called Trey. Teachers whose attendance rolls note such variations are a godsend; teachers who expect a substitute to somehow intuit their student’s names are not helpful.

            Some mispronunciations can cause durable problems. When I was in school, the first day in homeroom for a student named Ian pretty much sealed his fate — the teacher asked where “eyeann” was, and ever after anyone who wanted to tease him mispronounced his name. Since he was a bit physically awkward, he got a lot of that in gym class, and unfortunately the male gym teacher (called Coach, of course) thought it was hilarious and let people rub it in.

            1. Amz*

              This is bizarrely hostile– and, honestly, has a whiff of racism to it. These students didn’t “believe” or “think” that’s what their name was… it WAS their name! It doesn’t matter how you think it should be pronounced, it matters how the student and their parents want it pronounced. Obviously if it’s an unusual spelling it’s understandable if you get it wrong at first or even slip up afterwards, but unless I read you wrong, you are saying you ARGUED WITH A STUDENT IN FRONT OF THE CLASS about how to pronounce his own name? Nothing like public humiliation to enforce social hierarchy…

              1. Nonke John*

                Editor could have chosen some gentler wording—you’re right that that “believe” is misplaced, Amz—but it’s very common for substitute teachers to face a bunch of kids determined to assert their control over this no-‘count who isn’t the “real” teacher and may have been left with little guidance about the class or lesson plan. Editor explicitly mentions both black and white students, and boys and girls; and the thrust of the complaint is that they get combative when the teacher first guesses the pronunciation wrong using the usual cues. The argument with the student in front of the class was over whether sounding it out as spelled was a “mispronunciation” that he should feel justified in starting a fight over. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same as Editor did (assuming the argument made was “You can’t fault me for choosing the obvious pronunciation from the spelling” and not “If your name is spelled this way, you’re pronouncing it wrong”).

                1. Amz*

                  The fact that students haze substitutes does not give substitutes the right to ARGUE WITH STUDENTS ABOUT THEIR OWN NAMES! Correcting the teacher is not being “combative.” The teacher is the one who chose to make it an argument instead of simply apologizing and using the correct pronunciation. Can you imagine being a teenager, correcting a substitute on your name, and then having to ARGUE about it in front of the whole class? That could be genuinely traumatizing at that age, ESPECIALLY as a minority– you’re being explicitly told that your own experience doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter what you’ve been called all your life– this random teacher is Always Right so your name is Wrong. If this was my child, all hellfire would rain down on the district for this.

                1. leeapeea*

                  In response to Amz’s comment, that is. People, including young people and people of every ethnicity, are allowed to have the last word in the pronunciation of their name, regardless of the spelling or anyone, including a substitute teacher, thinks it should be. As someone who substitute taught, I have no idea why this is a battle that any sub would pick.

              2. Lady Kelbot*

                I agree – the specificity of race in this comment makes it sound like you are annoyed at students who did not use “traditionally white” pronunciations. It is not up to you on how a name is pronounced.

                1. Lady Kelbot*

                  Additionally, there are many, many languages where syllables are implied, so an English spelling without the syllable does not necessarily mean it ISN’T pronounced that way.

                  The best and most professional response would have been “I’m sorry, always one of the trickier things about being a sub!” and pronounce the name as the student cites. What did you hope to gain from that interaction?

              3. Editor*

                @Amz — I can see that I should have explained more clearly. I apologize.

                Whenever I took attendance, I warned students I might mispronounce their names and they should correct me, and I also warned them that with more than 1200 students on campus, sometimes I would have trouble remembering who was who if I had them infrequently. Some students I only saw a couple of times a year.

                In the case of the student who I will here call Kashaka, I left out a lot of detail. The encounter was on my second day as a substitute. It was first period and I was reading the roll. As I go down the list, I hear a muttered “get ready” off to the side as the name comes out of my mouth. The class bursts into laughter. A student at the back of the room yells “Can’t you read? Why are white teachers so dumb? My name is Kashaka.”

                So I said, trying to quiet the class, “Yes, I can read, and I will explain what is going on with my mispronunciation after I have finished the roll. That is, if you want me to. Well, of course the class was perfectly willing to divert me from the lesson plan. So I put the name on the board, we talked about how the name as spelled would be split into syllables using standard English rules and I talked a little about phonemes and how languages grow out of agreed-upon conventions for pronunciation and some of the difficulties of making alphabets for spoken English. Then we got back to the lesson plan.

                I privately suggested to the student that in the future he stop by to tell the teacher how he pronounced his name when he spotted a new face at the front of the classroom. He seemed to be relieved to know that there was an explanation for the consistent mispronunciations. And I heard later in the teacher’s lounge that his name was no longer causing gales of laughter when there was a sub.

                I think issues of naming and pronunciation are complicated — consider the Joaquins and Wakeens or the Shavons and Siobhans. I certainly didn’t intend to be racist with the students, although I discovered I had more baggage than I wanted to admit. They taught me a lot. But in the case of Kashaka, the discussion in the classroom came after I asked him if he wanted it.

        2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          I was going to say the same thing.

          I have a last name that is often mispronounced; one of the incorrect ways being similar to a rude euphemism that I was teased with a lot when younger. So I still get sensitive about it decades later! At some point though I realised that mature, professional adults weren’t telling me how to say my name when they explained how the spelling made them think it should sound, they were just trying to cover their own embarrassment at having said it so very wrong in the first place.

          1. Nonke John*

            Pennalynn Lott, when I started work, I met a Laura who insisted on one particular pronunciation of her name, and I’m sure I wasn’t able to hide my what-are-you-talking-about-lady? expression. But it wasn’t that I thought she was wrong. I’d just always thought of Lore-a (as Pa says) and Law-ra (as Mrs. Oleson says) as the same vowel filtered through your own upbringing and idiosyncrasies of pronunciation. It hadn’t occurred to me that a Laura might be considering one correct and the other wrong. I schooled myself to pronounce it her way, because it obviously mattered to her, but it took ages. Same with whether Sara(h) rhymes with mascara or Yogi Berra (in US-newscaster English). Cahra/Caira does sound like a bigger difference to me, but I’m sure I’d slip a lot while I was getting used to it, unfortunately.

            There’s probably a cat meme to describe it, if it helps, people mess up “easy” names all the time, too. Mine is a short, one-syllable, phonetic man’s name that is traditional and widely known among English speakers, though it’s never been hugely popular. Think something like Dirk. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that St. Peter will probably greet me (if I’m lucky) with “Hello, Dave-no-sorry-Dan-no-sorry-Don-no-sorry-Dirk-right-Dirk?” Like you, I’ve come to recognize that when people ramble about how common the other names are, they’re groping for a way to take responsibility for making the mistake.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              I’ve heard three different versions. When I took Italian with a friend, the professor pronounced her name more like “Low-ra.” (The first syllable rhymed with “ow.”) It was very pretty and she loved it.

      3. Elvira-rhymes-with-Shakira*

        A colleague with a khreatively spelled name used to respond to all the “Really? That’s weird, why–” with a pleasant but kind of bored, “Yep, [Karenn with two Ns; Laney pronounced Lah-knee]. Talk to my mom,” before pivoting immediately to something else. I was awestruck at its professional efficiency the first time I saw her do it. Her tone was cheerful but final enough to convey that the topic was finished.

        The only time I heard her get a follow-up question, she simply repeated, “Enh, ask my mom. Anyway, those product samples . . .” Highly recommend.

        1. Elvira-rhymes-with-Shakira*

          PS: I too had been thinking the spelling of her name was weird and had been silently rolling my eyes, but overhearing that exchange conveyed two things: 1) I was correct not to bother her about it, and 2) how about I grow up and mind my own business?

          Bonus side effects for her–and, ultimately, for me too! Name-spelling judginess is so not a good look.

        2. Amy Sly*

          I’ll do that with my husband as well. In fairness, my former last name was also German and mispronounced all the time.

        3. with an e*

          I have an e on the end of my fairly common first name making it very rare, but not unheard of. I just say “my mother did that to me”.
          But the number of times that people alternate between adding and missing the e in the same week/day is annoying.

      4. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

        Can you recruit an office buddy to support your pronunciation corrections? I have a friend with a Cahra sound in her name and actively correct people by repeating her name correctly.

        1. Cahra not Caira*

          You’re my hero!!

          I think part of my frustration is that the burden is always on me to be cheerful/gracious/assuring. I’m probably too shy to ask for it, but it’d be so great to have someone else do the legwork on occasion.

          1. Quill*

            One of the things that I’ve noticed: I don’t have this problem anymore almost at all in an international office. Now, this *COULD* be because my name is pronounced phonetically for most romance languages and what you would think people knew was phonetic in english. (My name is rare and scottish and probably was originally spelled differently, but as it stands it should be pretty easy.) But I think it’s because, in a majority nonwhite office, we’ve all been that kid whose name got butchered for every roll call so we’re great about not being an entire ass-hatstand about each other’s names even when we do get it wrong.

      5. Double A*

        I have a weird and unique name, and I have just accepted that the small talk I will have with every person I meet for the rest of my life will involve spelling my name and discussing my ethnic background (I’m white, but my name isn’t). I dunno, I can be annoyed by it, or I can realize it’s the price of having a cool name that I like!

        When all else fails, throw your parents under the bus as someone mentioned above! Ha.

      6. Burned Out Supervisor*

        LW – I worked with a woman who’s family is Persian and her name is fairly easy to pronounce, only I wasn’t pronouncing it quite right (the “az” in her name should almost be said like “is”). The thing is, I was saying it wrong like everyone else, so I thought it was right. After about a year of working with her, she did kindly correct me and I let her know that I was so grateful to her for letting me know. I did jokingly say that I wished she would have told me sooner because I felt terrible that I wasn’t pronouncing her name right for so long. She told me kind of what you said, that she tired of having to remind people all the time and having those weird conversations so she kind of gave up. At any rate, I thanked her and then let her know that I would practice to un-learn the incorrect way of saying it, but to feel free to remind me with impunity.

        1. Hobbit*

          One of my employes did that. She had worked for me for two years before she told me the correct way to say her name….I felt so dumb. Her name is usually spelled with a G, but she had it spelled with a J. I’m so paranoid about calling by the right name, that I’m afraid to call her by her name.

      7. Jay*

        I’m the opposite of Captain Awkward: I’m Jenni, but not Jennifer. My legal name is Jenni. I have spent my life correcting people who want to spell it Jennie/Jenny/Jeni (huh?)/Ginnie (huh?). As I’ve gotten older and moved up professionally, I’ve run into a lot of people who feel it’s disrespectful to call me by what they presume is a nickname so they will default to “Jennifer,” and then they’re REALLY embarrassed when I correct them.

        IT managed not to accurately read the forms I filled out when I started this job, so I’m Jeni in the computer system and Jenny on the official listing on my work phone. They managed to correct it everywhere else and luckily our email addresses are firstinitiallastname, so that was OK.

        And then there was the woman in the marriage license office who didn’t want to accept our application because it didn’t have my full name. She refused to believe that this was my full name.

        1. NotAJennifer*

          Same here! I’m Jenny with a Y, but the number of people I have to convince that no, I’m really not Jennifer, calling me that is not showing respect …

          I have had to actually produce my passport to get some folks to drop it.

        2. alienor*

          I had an uncle whose legal name was Bobby, and according to my mother, it was a constant struggle for first their parents and then him to convince people he was *really* Bobby and not Robert!

          1. Calpurrnia*

            I had a past boyfriend with the same exact name confusion. My uncle Carl insisted on calling him “Robert” even though the legal name on his birth certificate was Bobby. So since Carl thought it was such a fun game to call people by names longer than their actual name… we started calling him “Carlos”.

        3. Quill*

          Been there, even though my given name is super rare, everyone thinks it’s short for something.

          (And they’re often weirdly more invested in what my ‘real’ name is than they are with any Sam, Alex, or Liz)

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          There’s a whole M*A*S*H episode about BJ Honicutt’s name….which really is BJ, but hijinks ensued because Hawkeye&co thought he was having one over on them.

        5. Foxgloves*

          I get this a lot with my name- it sounds like it should be a shortened version of a longer name, but is actually a completely different, individual name. Think Carol and Caroline- they’re completely separate names, Carol isn’t short for Caroline. When I was a student, I worked in a shop where they put “Caroline” on the rota- when I queried why I, Carol, wasn’t on the rota, my boss said “Oh, there you are! Caroline!”. When I pointed out that was not, in fact, my name, she was very confused- even asking “I know you GO BY Carol, but you were christened Caroline, right?”. I have genuinely never been so baffled in my life- she had literally seen my passport that morning.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            I’ve known Carols, Carolines, and Carolyns. I’ve never known them to use Carol as a nickname for the last two. Usually they’re Carrie or Cari. Or go by their full name…

      8. Half-Caf Latte*

        For me, your current approach (“Oh, I actually pronounce it like Cahr-a, not Cair-a) would make it harder. I’d be listening, but the last thing I heard was the wrong pronunciation and that’s what would stick in my head. I’d want to get it right, though!

        I think the advice about rhyming it with a common word is just about reinforcing the sound for people as well. Can you find a response, even just, “Oh, it’s Cahr-a, actually” that doesn’t repeat the bad one?

      9. Half-Caf Latte*

        Uzo Aduba has a bit (easily found on youtube) about not liking her name as a kid because people couldn’t pronounce it, but in the intro of the video she introduces herself and cracks a joke about how she got it for her birthday.

    5. joss*

      As I am a foreigner with a name that is somewhat common in the US as well just pronounced differently, I occasionally respond with “well that is how my parents pronounced my name. And since they gave it to me I assume that they pronounce my name correctly”. Most of the time I just say well I’m from xxx and that is how we pronounce myname but it really doesn’t bother me if you do so differently (but it really doesn’t bother me, so there is that for reference)

    6. EssKay*

      This has actually worked for me really well! I recently moved to the US from India for grad school and some Americans find it hard to pronounce my name- but I’m rather anal about it and continue to emphasize the right way to pronounce it (and spell it) oftentimes using a rhyme (including to a professor and the Dean once) and it’s actually worked pretty well.
      In fact, Americans have taken to pronouncing my name and spelling the correct way (that is, my way) much better than a lot of Indians do- for reasons similar to OP’s, my name has multiple spellings and pronunciation and mine is less common. People tell me very often that I’ve got my own name wrong or persist in calling me what they will- but I literally never let them get away with it. I sometimes go to the extent of having them repeat after me- and I’m sure some people think I’m being weird about it, but I’d rather be [Right Name], the person who won’t let people mispronounce her name than [Wrong Name], a person.

    7. Adele Dazim*

      If my name was “Anna, rhymes with sauna,” I’d introduce myself as, “Anna, like in Frozen.”

      1. Ellen N.*

        I haven’t seen Frozen, but if you said that your name is pronounced like Anna Karenenia, I would get it.

            1. magic dave*

              ha ha. my son has a book where it tries to rhyme Giraffe with Scarf so I have to give the character a different accent to make the rhyme work. It’s discriminatory I tells you. (sigh)

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                This reminds me of a commercial playing on US TV, where a woman says, “Hi, I’m Bob!” She doesn’t look like a Bob, but OK. It took three viewings for me to realize that she was saying, “Hi, I’m Barb!” but her British accent was suppressing the “r” to the point that an American who doesn’t really pay that much attention during commercials didn’t hear it.

        1. EEOC Counselor*

          I have never seen Frozen, but literally less than one minute ago there was an advertisement for Frozen 2 on the Food Channel and one cartoon girl just called the other Anna, and it rhymed with sauna!!! So, it appears that Adele Dazim is correct.

          1. a finnish person*

            As a Finnish person, I’m just going to assume they said sauna wrong… Americans say “sah-nah” but the word is actually pronounced closer to “sow-nah”, where the sow is a female adult pig. (“Sow-nah” is also wrong, but the sa-u part is really terribly hard for Americans, it seems — that act of saying an “ah” sound and then a distinct “ooo” or “uuu” sound — really hard, but necessary in Finnish…)

            There is actually a name Auna, which would probably be pronounced closer to sauna, but it’s also quite rare.

            1. foxinabox*

              “actually pronounced”

              The word “sauna” was introduced to (for example) North America over 300 years ago so I think by now we can say that there’s more than one way to pronounce it.

          1. londonedit*

            I had literally never heard the ‘Ahn-ah’ pronunciation of Anna until that Frozen film was everywhere. In England, Anna is pronounced with a short ‘a’, like ‘Ann-a’. It took me the longest time to work out that people were talking about ‘Anna and Elsa’ because they were saying ‘Ahn-ah’ and that is in no way ‘Anna’ in my brain.

    8. curtangel*

      My maidem name is an unusual last name that apparently can be pronounced two different ways – but I can’t hear the difference because I have an auditory processing disorder.
      I didn’t realize this until middle school when a teacher asked (not actual name but similar pronunciation) “Is your last name pronounced Chair-ee or Cherry?” – I literally couldn’t hear the difference, so I said my name back the way I normally say it. I assume other people can hear a difference but I can’t.
      I was asked that question a few times by teachers after that and it was always like that “Tell the difference between these two pictures” meme from The Office.

    9. names are super fun*

      I will never forget a professor in University doing role call who genuinely cared about pronouncing people’s names correctly and halfway through got “UM it’s Chlo-ay not Chlo-ee” in the most sarcastic valley girl type voice. I understand she had to deal with this on a regular basis and that’s no fun but the entire room went silent and for years afterwards that response was still talked about since it seemed so over the top.

    10. steve*

      This is pretty funny because as a Finnish American, “sauna” doesn’t rhyme with any pronunciation of “Anna” (it should be said more like “sow-na”).

  2. Just J.*

    Yeah for Jennifer. She is so awesome.

    OP1: I once worked in an office like this. I did indeed ask myself if I wanted to be social with these people? The answer was a resounding No.

    As long as they were professional to me, respected the work I did (both quality and quantity), and vice versa, which they did, and I did in return, then we were all good. Also, and this was fortunate, my bosses and the grand-bosses did not view being part of the clique as something ‘necessary’ in order to be successful and promote-able.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Yes, this was my last workplace. I didn’t really want to hang out or be in group-texts with them either. Part of that was because I knew I wasn’t going to stay in the job very long, but also because I just don’t like those things. I realized later that I wasn’t invited because they simply thought I wouldn’t go – which was accurate.

      1. Sophie Hatter*

        me too! Except I sort of did this on purpose- I quietly excluded myself when people were talking about after work events or whatever.

      2. CB*

        +1 on the group texts. I was added to “the group” on our office chat program several months after it was created, after my desk neighbor asked why I never participated in lunch outings (because I had been left off originally!). I stayed for a few months, until a coworker made an incredibly offensive comment about our board and donors. I used it as an educational opportunity and then swiftly left the group.

        My reputation (and promotions et al) in the office are for being friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and good at my job. I don’t need to participate in meal-girl-esque lunches and text chats.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      For LW#1 I wish Alison had addressed the workplace side of things. I completely understand that the LW hurts being left out, but work is a place for work friendships. Work should not be the centerpiece of your social circle and social activities because if everyone is really friends (instead of friendly) that definitely makes for a dysfunctional/toxic workplace when personal relationships start to impact workplace ones and getting work done.

      I wouldn’t actually recommend trying to become part of the clique. I would recommend following the Captain’s advice about working on your social interactions outside work. I would recommend joining is any post work happy hours (going across the street for after-work drinks) just to keep a friendly relationship with your co-workers.

      There’s a difference between friendships and friendly relationship. With most co-workers you should cultivate a friendly but somewhat superficial relationship. Talk of pets, children, activities, sports, weather, but don’t share intimate details of your life.

      1. Kes*

        Eh, I think it goes both ways – it’s not great to make your whole social life dependent on work, but social life at work can have an impact on work at work, and as such if there is a thriving social aspect at your work it is worth seeing if you can be part of it in order to maintain good relationships with your colleagues.

        As such I agree with the advice to see whether you can join if you make the effort to ask, in case you have been more inadvertently left out.

        If it does become clear they are deliberately excluding you and don’t want you there, you can consider whether there is anything in your behaviour that might be hurting the relationships with them, or whether they’re just playing mean girls, in which case there’s not much you can do beyond keeping your head down, remaining professional, and considering whether to look for another job

      2. Tidewater 4-1009*

        It makes such a big difference when you have a good social life outside of work! It repays your effort 1000%.
        LW, if you develop a social life with activities and friends you like outside of work you will feel so much better and even if these people turn out to be excluding you deliberately, you’ll just laugh at how immature and selfish they are. :)

  3. ThatGirl*

    It can be hard for “everyone is hanging out except me” to not feel personal, but it usually isn’t. Two of my coworkers are having lunch today with a third, former coworker, who I also went to lunch with semi-regularly when she worked here. So I had a moment of “oh, she didn’t invite me.” Except … former CW worked with the other two for years. They have a lot of history I don’t have; I only worked with her for ~5 months. It makes complete sense that she might want to catch up with them and not me.

    1. ceiswyn*

      I spent about ten years being sad because all my friends kept going off to an annual summer party in the vast house and grounds owned by the family of one of them, and when they came back they’d have awesome stories to tell. It all sounded like the most amazing fun, only I never got invited.

      Year eleven, when someone asked if I was coming, I finally cracked and had FEELINGS at them about not being invited.

      You can guess the punchline. Apparently the hosts had just assumed I knew I was welcome. Everyone just figured I had other stuff going on in any specific year, and nobody had put it together and noticed I was never there.

      Year twelve, I turned up and had fun – though, and this was also an important lesson, not the epic levels of awesome that had built up in my mind :)

      1. Filosofickle*

        I’d still struggle with this! Agree with Captain Awkward that “They forgot me” is better than “They don’t like me” but it wouldn’t feel like it here. Over ten years, no one came back and said “it was so fun we missed you” or “I wish you could have come!”? I’m not sure I’d get past that.

        1. ceiswyn*

          People did occasionally say things like that, but they weren’t the hosts. So I was just non-committal back because I didn’t want to make things weird.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      If an upcoming plan is being discussed, one approach could be “Oh, you’re going to see Jane? Great! Tell her I said hi.” That would be a reminder/opening to “Hey, want to come along?” if they just hadn’t thought of adding you into the mix for whatever reason, but would still be happy to have you.

      1. ThatGirl*

        In this case I’m not going to fuss over it, though I will say “tell her hi for me!” I’m just saying it’s an example where they’re not trying to be rude or exclusionary; I do know this former CW well enough to know that if she had wanted to specifically see me she would have included me in the texts or told someone else to include me. It’s all good.

      2. Kes*

        I don’t know, that’s a bit oblique and could result in them thinking you just can’t make it/are fine with not going. I think at this point it might be better to just ask ‘Oh, can I join?’ The results may be telling, and should make it a lot clearer if they are happy to have you and it was just an oversight or if they don’t really want you there.

  4. Jennifer*

    #1 Captain Awkward’s action was perfection and so many people who have written here in the past need to read it. Don’t always jump to the conclusion that people are being malicious. Don’t be so quick to project your high school experiences onto every negative social interaction. Extroverted people feel awkward sometimes too and may assume you don’t want to come. Also, if you want to be more social, sometimes you have to take the initiative. Perfection *chef’s kiss*

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      Came here to say this. I was reading through it, got done and thought, “Holy shit answer #1 is literally perfect.”

    2. Anon and on an on*

      How does the saying go? Don’t attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity? It’s social variation, Don’t attribute to rudeness what can be explained by obliviousness.
      OP, you are thinking that as a person on the spectrum you do not register signals that neurotypical naturally get. Well, they don’t get them all. Neurotypical people catch on more quickly, yes, but they don’t have some Mentalist level ability. Really, speaking for myself, I’m not thinking “I’m going to stand by OP and talk about a happy hour that is invite only,” I’m thinking, “I’m going to talk to some coworkers about something fun we are doing later and confirm that I have the right day so that I don’t show up and look like a loser with no friends because everyone in the place will know (somehow) that my entire department pranked me.
      So yeah, we all have inner monologues going on.

        1. Zephy*

          Not to be pedantic, but it’s Hanlon’s Razor, in case anyone else wants to read up on it. Hanson is a 90’s boy band. :)

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Oops, my bad! I thought I had it right since I have looked it up so many times lately….But anyway, just the fact that this phenomenon has a name pleases me very much.

          2. A tester, not a developer*

            Isn’t Hanson’s Razor “don’t attribute to mmmbop what can be explained by ba duba dop”? :)

      1. Close Bracket*

        “Well, they don’t get them all. ”

        Yes. The purported allistic genius level emotional intelligence has been vastly overestimated.

        “Really, speaking for myself, I’m not thinking “I’m going to stand by OP and talk about a happy hour that is invite only,””

        Although, really, for something that is invite only, you should be thinking that. Maybe tack on to the end of your inner monologue something like “… but I should wait for a time when non-invitees are not around so I don’t rub in their faces that they aren’t invited.” I mean, don’t sneak around whispering, but show a little consideration.

    3. Minocho*

      It is perfection, isn’t it?!? It not only acknowledges the OP’s feelings and answers the OP’s question with paths forward, but it also perfectly touches on the extrovert’s point of view.

      I don’t consider myself an extrovert, but I love hosting and cooking and setting up social gatherings where people can have fun. I always try to contribute, even if I’m not hosting – and I have gotten burnt out and felt unappreciated and had to pull back to preserve my own sanity sometimes despite this.

      I’ve been in the OP’s position at a new job, excluded from impromptu team lunches. I started to occasionally invite myself along to them, and it was usually fine. Eventually it came out (in some very unprofessional behavior on a coworker’s part) that a coworker had an issue with me and was trying to exclude me – but was unwilling to openly do so. Either which way, my self invitations led to much better comraderie in the office.

      I hope the OP can address things so that their work environment is comfortable and pleasant for them!

    4. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      Are they stupid/lazy or an asshole/mean is a topic that comes up frequently. While I also tend to fall on the side of assuming stupid/lazy, I suspect LW has a lot more information than we do about their office.

      Are social events the only thing that seem cliquey? Then the assumption of lazy/dense is more likely. But if there are also mean things going on, such as concrete examples of disrespect, favoritism in the workplace, that might move the needle in the other direction.

    5. Bernice Clifton*

      And how many letters/comments do we see that are the equivalent of, “My coworkers keep asking me to Social Events after work even though I always say No.”

      1. Heidi*

        True. My wish for the world is that everyone gets to hang out exactly as much as they want to hang out, be it every night or never.

        The Captain said it much better than I would, but when I was reading the letter, my thought was, “These other coworkers probably don’t think that OP even wants to hang out with them.”

    6. Aquawoman*

      I agree with this and I would like to see folks apply the same thought and reasoning to neuroatypical behaviors. I don’t understand why not-inviting-someone deserves the benefit of the doubt, but a person who yawns in a meeting or accidentally speaks at the wrong time during a conference call doesn’t get the same tolerance.

      1. Roscoe*

        So, I’m no expert on neuroatypical behaviors. But I think part of the issue is that you don’t know if the person is on the spectrum, or just rude, or just clueless. I think all 3 of those will take different approaches, but if you are unclear about it, and someone speaks at the “wrong” time during a conference call, I don’t have a problem with it being addressed. Its not like everyone is forthcoming with that information, and its not polite to ask that. I don’t necessarily though think we need to default to that.

      2. Perpal*

        I’m not sure where you are seeing intolerance to someone making a mild atypical behavior, and if it’s enough to come across as unprofessional, being receptive to feedback that it comes across badly. At least, not something I’ve seen widely on this site.
        For more problematic behaviors, see captian awkward’s “Schrödinger’s Autist” (letter #1219); while on the one hand you shouldn’t assume malice, you also don’t need to tolerate/dismiss behaviors that bother you because there’s always the possibility that the person isn’t neurotypical*.
        *this is in the absence of actually having some kind of disclosure or knowledge about this. Particularly applies to thirdhand parties advising someone looking for advice.

    7. yala*

      Honestly, it just made me uncomfortable. Sometimes it really IS malice, and it’s taken us awhile to admit it because we did keep giving them the benefit of the doubt.

      1. Jennifer*

        Well, if it is malice – do you want to be friends with them in the first place? Be cordial, get your work done and focus on building a fun social life outside of work. What good can come from worrying about why people that you don’t even like in the first place didn’t invite you somewhere? Her answer touched on that as well.

        1. yala*

          “Well, if it is malice – do you want to be friends with them in the first place?”

          It’s sort of a yes and no thing. If it were just out in the world, no, not really. But when you wind up being affected by it because it colors other people’s perceptions of you, or when folks leaving you out means you don’t get the same leeway with breaks etc that they do, it starts to feel very stressful, like a target on your back.

          In that case, it’s less about “boy howdy, I want to be friends with these mean people” and more about “hmm. being constantly excluded doesn’t seem really great for my chances.”

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, I think there has to be a balance. But if there aren’t other patterns of cliquishness (does the LW also get cut out of informal work collaboration or hi-how-was-your-weekend small talk?) and the LW hasn’t yet made that first overture, explicitly asking if she can join something is a pretty reasonable step.

      3. Geillis D*

        Hard agree. My inner “this ain’t right” systems beeped incessantly when a co-worker blatantly invited my office buddy to her birthday party while ignoring me. The same person organized a farewell party to another co-worker who was her best friend and invited 4 out of 5 female staff, excluding me. She was actively looking for co-workers to supplement her social life and I didn’t fit the bill as I was 15 years older and in a totally different place in life, and not the fun going out type anyway. I was essentially ignored because I was of no use for her. I told myself repeatedly that it wasn’t personal. I have a wonderful, full to the brim life. I have family and friends who love me, interests and hobbies and cats, and it still stung like I was back in grade 5.

    8. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yes! I was definitely LW1 earlier in my career and finally realized “wait…maybe the reason people aren’t really socializing with me is because…I don’t socialize with them!” Occam’s razor and all. And yes, it turned out that the coworkers I thought were cool and wanted to be friends with really are cool and mostly would be totally up for hanging out with me, but had been respecting what they saw as my clear signals that I wanted to keep things at a cordial-coworker level.

  5. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    The personal check ins at the monthly meeting…the baby news can be triggering for those with fertility issues, the vacation for people with money problems. And for those of us who like our jobs and just want to get on with our days, these meetings sound annoying. It reminds me of how in first grade, we’d start the day with “News.” The teacher would call on one or two students to say what they did after school yesterday. So we got to know each other, get comfortable raising our hands, speaking to the class.
    I think the whole meeting needs revamping. Start the meeting with the meeting. Leave 15 minutes at the end for people to casually talk to each other if they want.
    This won’t happen, I realize. But I’m curious if you, OP have gotten opinions from others about this welcome/warm up exercise. I’d be really surprised if you were the only one who found it stressful.

    1. Jennifer*

      I think there are people with fertility issues who can hear that someone has had a baby or is pregnant without melting down. Depends on the situation. Nearly any topic can bring up unpleasant feelings for other people. We have to have balance.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Oh, I agree. I was trying to include a sentence that anyone’s personal life can upset someone else and in the workplace, you have to compartmentalize. But I was far less concise in my first post and deleted it all. I should have deleted the first sentence, because it’s not really what I wanted to talk about.
        I am just not a fan of the person sharing. It’s forced and doesn’t help the group really.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Exactly. Which is why these time wasters are meetings are not only well, time wasters, they are fraught with issues. If you are calling a meeting, something needs to be discussed. Discuss whatever is the reason for the meeting then let everyone get back to work. You don’t need to have forced personal sharing.

    2. Daffy Duck*

      Yes, I think this is a meeting problem, not a person problem. I wish there could be an agreement that we are at work (exchanging our time for $$) and are all there to support the common goal (whatever the business does). I really like having a great group of coworkers, but please don’t expect us all to be besties/family. In a social setting I don’t search out with the person who lives for the weekly ball game and never reads for enjoyment.
      I also find these “tell us about yourself” questions stressful. Is my answer TMI for someone? What would be a bland but truthful answer? If I give a non-answer will my manager feel I am sabotaging the meeting?
      I really feel for the OP with the eating disorder. I also feel for the coworker who it dieting. Issues around food, especially when you are trying to change behavior and body composition take up a huge amount of brainspace. Yes, you can let her know dieting is fraught subject for you and hopefully she will tone it down but you can’t expect to never overhear her talking about it.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        I second, third, and fourth this sentiment. I am not a fan of the forced sharing scenarios. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for people sharing whatever personal information they wish with whatever coworkers want to hear it. But a meeting is a captive audience. People who don’t want to share will inevitably be “forced” to do so with people who aren’t even interested in hearing it to begin with.

        1. Bostonian*

          Yeah, I’m with you. One of my first reactions to this letter was that maybe they should rethink the structure of the meetings. Having a set time for people to share personal things is a bit much and would make me feel put on the spot. The few times it has been done at my job, I keep it as bland as possible (“my cats are still awesome!”) because I really don’t feel comfortable talking about my family or anything else “deeper” with my coworkers.

      2. Kes*

        I agree the forced sharing is not great. In general though, I think studies have shown it’s better when people are friendly with their coworkers so I can understand wanting to encourage that, this just isn’t the best method in most cases (although I can see potential exceptions, ex a less frequent meeting of people who don’t work together on a day to day basis but need to build rapport to collaborate effectively)

        I also agree that I feel for both coworkers here. I disagree with the answers that it is inherently unprofessional to want to talk about your diet, but it’s also understandable for OP not to want to hear it in this type of case. I do think though that OP needs to stop trying to joke or hint and say something a little more explicit about not wanting to hear it. CA’s script is great – not accusatory, but very clear

    3. Daisy-dog*

      We do something like that in our meetings and it really doesn’t take up much time. We have had no pregnancies and few vacation announcements. I shared once that I was happy Game of Thrones was back. I also often share that I’m happy about the nice weather or other non-personal items. I did share when my new niece was born. Most people share things that are pretty superficial, not triggering.

      1. Fikly*

        Well, both those examples can be triggering. Game of Thrones has content that is very triggering for some people. So is the news of a baby being born.

        Superficial =/= not triggering.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Daisy presumably wasn’t detailing violent plot points. It’s not reasonable to expect that people in an office will never name a TV show they like or mention that a baby was born. (I realize you’re not saying that, but rather are pointing out those aren’t necessarily not triggering — but this is getting close to sandwiches territory.)

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Yep, I literally said, “I’m happy GoT is back. Also, I accomplished this work-related task.” No discussions of the show happened in the meeting, but I did start talking about the show one-on-one with a couple co-workers.

            I also have niecephews that were adopted – does that make a difference in sharing?

        2. Jennifer*

          Sure the content of the show does, but I’m sure even those people could hear the title of the show without being triggered. A graphic description of the violence in the show is another matter. There’s a balance between being thoughtful of the feelings of others before bringing up potentially triggering topics and learning to manage our triggers.

          Same with infertility. People have babies and it’s going to be mentioned sometimes one way or another.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I’m dealing with infertility at the moment and, sure, it’s been tough having four babies born in the office in the last 18 months, but I was dealing with that fairly well until the last mom-to-be was constantly mentioning her pregnancy all the time. It got to the point where I almost said something to her about it but since I’m not out about trying to conceive at work and since I knew she was leaving soon, I let it go.

            People are going to keep having babies and it’s not fair to those having them to have to keep silent about it (not to mention impossible). The key lies in knowing how much to talk about it. And it wasn’t fair of me to expect my pregnant co-worker to not talk about it if I didn’t tell her to not talk about it.

            I had a similar experience when I discovered that another co-worker lost her mother when she was 10. I can’t not mention doing stuff with my mother, but I’m not going to harp on how mothers are the best and be similarly insensitive to this CW. I can at least try not to trigger her, even if I don’t succeed. And I trust her to come to me if I did say something insensitive that triggered her.

            1. Jennifer*

              Of course, if I know someone is grieving I’ll do my best to be sensitive. At the same time, it’s simply not possible to know every single thing that will trigger someone. I think people can be a bit kinder and give others the benefit of the doubt sometimes.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, and often in my experience, you’re sharing experiences that would soon become common knowledge in some fashion anyway, like getting engaged, having a baby, or going on vacation. It’s actually more efficient because everyone hears the correct message at the same time instead of office gossip telephone!

        Sharing broad announcements like that seems pretty different than expecting everyone to be besties.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      We do a similar thing at our weekly meetings, report in on what you did over the weekend. I have a love/hate relationship with it, because I find myself over the weekend constantly thinking about work (“Should I tell work about this weird thing that happened?” “Wait ’til work hears about this!”) and it distracts from the weekend.

      But I think it’s a nice gesture. If anyone doesn’t want to say what they actually did, no one would force them. Many times I and others have said, “I didn’t do anything this weekend and it was great,” even if we did in fact do something, we just don’t want to tell anyone about what we did. (Well, I have, anyway. I’m sure others have too.)

      But I find weight and diet talk to be absolutely one of the most boring topics of conversation, so I would be very annoyed if one of my coworkers started talking about it (which they wouldn’t because we are very sensitive to triggering issues here).

    5. Well Then*

      We do this at my job, and I enjoy it! People share a huge range of updates, from “I read a good book” to “I visited my grandparents” – you can be as personal or impersonal as you want. There’s no pressure to overshare or give a lot of details. Personally, I’d be annoyed by diet/weight loss talk, but I agree that it’s impossible to be sensitive to everyone’s potential triggers, and it could become a game of whack-a-mole trying to decide what’s okay for sharing and what’s not.

      1. vlookup*

        I think this is a good way to handle this! Give people the opportunity to get to know each other better, but without pressure to share more personal details than they want.

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      We had a monthly meeting with folks we didn’t work with often and the organizer had a whole litany of ice breaker type things to get the meeting rolling that I really liked. Things like, “What’s something new you learned in or out of work since the last meeting?”, “Have you started a new hobby or new project with an old hobby since the last meeting?”, “What is one beautiful thing that you saw since our last meeting?” etc.. Best part was she specified that you could answer, “I haven’t had much time for my cactus bonsai hobby lately, but when I get back into it I want to try X” and it was perfectly fine.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        At one all-staff meeting we were asked to share something that gave us joy lately, and the answers ranged from deeply meaningful moments at work, to things like coffee or someone finding a new band they liked.

    7. Health Insurance Nerd*

      I really, really, really appreciate this comment- the LW is literally inviting people to share personal information.

    8. JF*

      Yeah, my first thought was that this exercise is probably causing the weight loss talker stress as well. They might just be sharing because they feel weird about not having that much going on when people are taking trips/getting married/having babies. Personally, as someone who doesn’t have a lot going on, I would really hate something like this.

    9. Annie*

      I’m sorry but answer to 3 is HORRENDOUS advice. The LW has no right at all to dictate what “personal information” should be shared and what should not be according purely to her own personal preferences, and her comments to the co-worker honestly come across as pretty nasty and snide. The coworker could easily make an HR complaint for bullying – and most people in that situation would assume the LW is jealous of women who lose weight, which could really damage her reputation.

      It also makes me very uneasy to suggest speaking to a supervisor to try to censor and ban someone from talking about their own life – especially when the LW gives “new babies” as an example of what she considers an acceptable topic (when pregnancy is far more personal and would be far more upsetting and triggering to anyone struggling with infertility than diet chat is to people).

      The whole concept of a mandatory personal life check in is trash, honestly. But the LW needs to take responsibility by removing herself, not trying to ban certain topics.

      1. Susie Q*

        I agree 100%. Getting healthier and making positive changes should be celebrated. If that is triggering for you, you need to see a therapist. I have a very long history of anorexia and bulimia. Part of recovery from those disorders is focusing on what you have the ability to change and control outside of eating. And focusing on you, not others. OP needs to work on that with a therapist. People around her will be dieting and losing weight all the time. OP needs to learn how to deal with that in a healthy manner.

    1. AlsoJenniferNotJenny*

      Same same same. My family/friends called me “Jenny” growing up, but as an adult, I much prefer Jennifer. Then everyone at work has taken the liberty of calling me “Jenn”. I’M JENNIFER FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

      1. Jen with One N!*

        I’m a Jennifer who goes by Jen…with one ‘N”. And if anyone calls me Jenny (other than my dad), I want to slap them. I’m trying to get better about correcting the spelling issue…the rage I feel when it’s spelled wrong (for me), is so disproportionate for on little letter. But there you go!

        1. Lady Perogy*

          I have the same problem with my name. My dad and his side of the family shortened my name to the first syllable like saying Je. Now that I’m grown, no one but my dad and a favourite cousin I hardly see (like once every 5 years) calls me the nickname and everyone else uses “Jennifer”. That is until I had been at my company for a couple years. Then a partner decided he couldn’t be bothered to type/say my two syllable/7 letter name and started using “Je”. I flat out told him that only my father gets away with calling me that. You’re too young to be my dad so I’m going to call you Pops every time you use “Je”. He tried a few more times to use “Je” and realized I was serious. Fortunately, I didn’t have to say it in front of clients for him to get the hint. It’s been 3 years since that happened and now he’ll say “Je” with a twinkle in his eye when he thinks I’m frustrated with him and it generally breaks the tension and I’m okay with that.

          And really? Who spells Jen with nn? It’s Jen. That’s like Anne with an E. That’s just how it’s spelled. Not Ann. (sorry to any anns out there, I’m sure you get the Green Gables reference thrown at you all the time, I’d still respect you if you don’t have the e)

          1. Broadway Duchess*

            I’m sorry, but that last paragraph is really unkind. Who spells Jen with double n? And, Ann without an e? Someone does — many someones, obv. It’s not an error, it’s a name.

    2. londonedit*

      That’s the thing, isn’t it! If someone introduces themselves as Cara and pronounces it Cahr-a, then that’s how you pronounce it. If you’ve only ever seen their name written down and you’re not sure how they pronounce it, ask them, and then use that pronunciation.

      I use a shortened version of my name, and I don’t really like the full version. No one apart from my mother when she’s annoyed with me, and an aged great-aunt who refuses to call anyone by anything other than their full name, has used the longer version of my name since I was about 11. It really grates when I introduce myself to someone and the first thing they say is ‘Oh! Is that short for something? What’s it short for? Fergusina? Or is it Fergella?’ As the good Captain and Alison said, I try to just be breezy-yet-firm and say ‘Ah, no, it’s just Fergie’, but sometimes you get people who just won’t leave the topic alone.

      1. Old Cynic*

        I have a friend named Woody and people often ask what it’s short for. They generally are astounded to find out it’s not short for anything and that it’s on his birth certificate that way.

        1. Tess with no A*

          Yep, the “birth certificate” comment is often necessary when people just won’t quit questioning you on your own name. Generally it shuts them up. It’s crazy to me how much people (even in this thread!) refuse to believe that people are the authorities of their own names! Like, do they think that their comment will suddenly make me realize I’ve been calling myself by the wrong name for 35 years?

        2. 404UsernameNotFound*

          *sigh* That happened sooooooo much with my best friend. No, she’s not called [Alexandra], you’re not “posh” for calling her [Alexandra], you’re just ignoring the fact that she, at best, prefers to be called [Alex].* By the way, it’s actually on her birth certificate like that, so stop it!
          (As someone with a difficult name myself, I have Feelings about this. So many names are hard enough on their own – why make it harder for yourself?!)
          *name changed for privacy

      2. Nessun*

        Every new person we hire, my first interaction with them by phone is, what do you like to be called/how do you pronounce your name. I’ll spell it right, because I have your email from HR, but I need you to tell me what you want as far as nicknames, pronunciation, and preference. And I’m never going to make an assumption: if you were William when we hired you, I’m calling you William until you say “actually I go by Bill”. It drives me bugnuts when people say my name wrong, so you can bet I’m always gonna check. It’s just common decency!!

      3. Daisy Avalin*

        Yeah, I’m ‘Full Name’ only with family, and ‘Shortened Name’ pretty much everywhere else.

        (Having said that, from growing up with Dad who used all 3 daughters’ names interchangeably, along with the dog/cow/whoever he happened to be thinking about at the time, I will answer to pretty much anything as long as it’s aimed at me!)

        1. voluptuousfire*

          LOL. Sounds like my dearly departed aunt. My name was usually the 4th or 5th name she went down when trying to get my attention. It went from her daughter to her granddaughters to daughters in law to me than her twin sister’s oldest granddaughter. Considering how many cousins I have, that could be hours by the time she got to my name!

    3. Threeve*

      I heard a Johnathan correct “John” with a faux-serious “I’m a three-syllable man! I earned those syllables and I wear them proudly.” Which didn’t really make sense, but was memorable.

        1. Working Mom*

          Ha, that’s fabulous! Years ago (mostly HS, college), I’d have people ask me, “Can I call you X” (a variation of my nickname). I would always respond with, “Sure! I might not answer though!”

          1. Person from the Resume*

            Q: “Can I call you X?” (X = first syllable of my name and a common name/nickname)
            A: No. I won’t respond.

            And it’s true. X is not my name. X is what my cousin was called – a shortened form XAB for him. If I don’t hear my full name – XY – it does not register as my name. I was in elementary school with girls named XC and XD so I am just very well-trained not to respond to that shortened version of my name. I am not X and X is not me.

            1. Nessun*


              Q: Can I call you X-with a y (because it’s more common/cuter/sillier/simpler than XZ)?
              A: Only if we’ve entered a parallel universe where a) I’m now three years old AND b) you’re my mother, who gave me my name.

    4. CupcakeCounter*

      Yup Yup Yup
      I get that the possibility of retraining my family after 18 years of using a nickname probably won’t happen (especially the older ones…have had pretty good luck with the same-age cousins). But the nickname my parents call me is just not me (or professional as it is also a doll, playboy bunny, song, etc…).
      Other pet peeve is the opposite of you guys though! I go by a shorted version of my name (the Jen to your Jennifer) but every place I have ever worked uses the full, legal version of my name in my email address so I get called it all the time even though I have my nameplate, email signature, and voicemail greeting set to “Jen” as well as introducing myself to people as “Jen”. Finally in a job that asked my preferred name in the application process so everything is set to that preference. Its nice :)

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        Right now my legal name is something like Amelia Ann Wallace. (syllables and stresses match) I want to legally be Alexandra Wallace, but I will do it by sticking Alexandra on the front of the existing name. That way the people who are going to still call me Amelia can do so, and I won’t be bothered cause it’s not my legal name, and they won’t be bothered with remembering the new name. And the rest of the world will see Alexandra and call me the name I want.

      2. Timothy (TRiG)*

        People are weird. One of my own personal weirdnesses is that I’ll happily answer to Tim, Timmy, and even Tom in speech, but hate seeing my name spelled that way. If you’re writing, it has to be the full Timothy. I have absolutely no explanation for why I feel this way, but I do.

        I do try to respect other people’s names. The way Americans butcher Irish names does grate me (Caitlyn is not pronounced Kate-Lyn, not even slightly), but if I ever met someone with such a name in real life I’m sure I’d adapt to it quickly enough.


        1. Amy Sly*

          I’m happy to pronounce Irish names however they want them to be pronounced. But I’m sorry, I have no Celtic language background and therefore no ability to guess what that random-to-me group of letters supposed to sound like. :)

          1. A Kate*

            This comment (and an earlier thread) are making me want to go look up Irish pronunciations of names, that’s for sure.

      3. Marzipan Dragon*

        Yes, retraining family is hard. I’m meh on the short version of my name but in 55 years I’ve never managed to break anyone of using it. The absolute worst was the boss who in the first 5 minutes of my first day looked at me and said “Marzipan, I am a very important man and your name has too many syllables. You can not waste my time with that many syllables so I will be calling you Mar.” Yup, I knew in the first five minutes that I was leaving as soon as I could.

    5. Mill Miker*

      I wish I could trade experiences with a bunch of the people here. I’m a Mike, and I’ve honestly never had a preference for Mike vs. Michael, and yet for some reason people feel compelled to constantly ask my preference when they meet me.

      I feel like I’m hogging and wasting the limited supply of respect for preferences over here.

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        Because I have a son named Michael. Not Mike. Not Mickey or Mick. Michael. He decided this for himself at a young age.
        My dad was named Michael, but he always went by Mike.
        That’s why.

        1. RC Rascal*

          My college bf was a Michael, not a Mike. When someone called him Mike he would smile politely and say, “ It’s Michael”.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          We called my kid by his initials the first few years of his life (like B.E.N. We picked the initials before we picked the names behind them. The actual initials are a reference to a fandom we have, but still a recognizable name). About the time he turned three, he said, “wait, my name is Brandon” and stopped answering to Ben. Completely, dead stop, never even turned his head when he heard “Ben.”

          People’s interactions with their names are really interesting. I do make a point to check email sigs for nicknames, and ask / listen for pronunciation, especially after my experience with the kid. I never cared much, but he clearly did.

      2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        Same- I’m another Jennifer and other than Jenny (which just sounds infantilizing to my ears, but I’ve never had anyone try it since I’ve been an adult anyway) I do not care whether it’s Jennifer or Jen. Though typically everyone calls me Jen, it is jarring to hear someone who typically calls me Jen switch suddenly to Jennifer- my mom does that when she’s upset with me, and it makes me worried I’ve done something wrong.

    6. Old Cynic*

      It’s fun being Robert, introducing yourself that way and immediately many people (mostly men!) respond “Hi Bob!”. Except that you’ve NEVER been called Bob and only briefly as a teenager went by “Rob”.

    7. Miss May*

      My partners name is Michael, and frequently gets called “mike” which he loathes. He’s actually started saying, “Who’s Mike?” when people call him the shortened version of his name.

    8. Rocket Dog*

      I have the opposite problem. My actual name is a short version of a longer one. Think Kathy instead of Kathleen or Katherine. Everyone tries to call me by the longer version. Not my name!

      Also, I would recommend using the George Takei approach. William Shatner could never remember his name. He’d say “Bill, it rhymes with toupee…”

      If you can have memorable humor, people remember it.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        George Takei told the story of first meeting Gene Roddenberry, where the latter asked him if his name was pronounced “TakAY or TakEYE?” George said, “Well, either way, but ‘takEYE’ means ‘expensive.'” Gene immediately said, “Oh, TakAY, TakAY!!”

    9. JessicaTate*

      May I add Jessica solidarity to this? It’s the exact same thing, if I introduce myself, sign emails, write bios, etc. as Jessica, I’m Jessica. When do you think you received permission to call me Jess or (worse) Jessie??

    10. Half-Caf Latte*

      James Robert is a family name for the Tall Americano, and we really struggled with whether to name the eldest espresso shot James Robert the nineteenth, because while we both love James and Robert, we really dislike JimBob.

  6. Ms. Cheetoh*

    #2 – I don’t know for sure but it sounds like you’re early to mid-20s. I’m a bit ahead of you in the life timeline and have a historical female name that happens to now be shared by a universally known luxury brand. I cannot tell you how often between leaving my hometown where everyone knew me and was used to it and now I’ve had to deal with “Oh, Cheetohs? I bet you love to eat Doritos eh?” or “Cheetohs? HA! Do you have a brother named FUNYUNS?” or “Cheetohs? No way, your parents loved snacks eh? (insert pretend chip munching sound here)”

    Yes, it’s annoying as all get out. Yes, it wears on a person and can feel like an attack on our identity. I happen to have sister in the same situation and for years while in retail she used her middle name or nickname professionally because she was so sick of the chip comments. (Think going by Frida instead of Fritos)

    All of this being said, I’m sorry to say I don’t have a fix-it-all solution. The advice here is great. I do still deal with it occasionally. BUT the further away from my early 20s I got and the more “official professional” I became, the more it slowly lessened. When I started my most recent job, I almost exclusively just got “Do you prefer Chee-toh or or Chee-toes?” and an occasional “Oh, how neat!” when they learned my sister’s name.

    So I do think it’s part being more confident to own your introductions “Hi, I’m Cheetoh, yup spelled just like the chip, I’m here as your new Teapot Specialist.” (said with a bit of a “and-that’s-the-end-of-that” tone) and in part finding the right environment of people who aren’t all trialing their totally originally tight-five comedy routine.

    Bonne chance!

    1. Yes, I know it's unusual and that I don't look Puerto Rican*

      As someone with a very unusual, very ethnic name that I constantly have to spell, explain, and give the background on, my request for anyone else is just to consider whether someone has heard the joke or comment, say, 3000 times already before you make it. Like, yes, that is the ethnic background of my name and haha, yes, I know that apparently I don’t look like your stereotypes of my ethnic background. How racist of you! And yet, that it’s still my name and you’re still pronouncing it wrong. To be clear, I don’t freak out because that isn’t helpful, but sometimes I’m just…tired.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I would like that to be a rule for existence at large. If the joke immediately pops into your head, chances are very high that it immediately pops into a lot of people’s heads, and that most of them blurt it out, and that the poor individual you’re talking to has heard it five million, three hundred twenty-two thousand, six hundred eleventy-four times in the last like, three days, and EVERYONE who makes it thinks they’re super clever and innovative and hilarious, so maybe just don’t.

        Love, Ginger no I don’t know where Mary Ann is and the next person who makes that joke is going on their own 3-hour tour I SWEAR TO GOD.

        (I worked at an org with a Mary Ann once, luckily in a different department. We started avoiding each other about four hours into my first day and went out of our way to not be in the same room together if we could help it for the rest of the 16 months we both worked there because it was just painful.)

        1. No Relation (to Coke)*

          Oh hells yes, I’ve been there. My name is Nicola (please don’t say “COLA” as the second part, I am not a soft drink). Every single cold season someone will ask me if my name rhymes with those damn cough drops (no it doesn’t), or even better, do the razzafraggin’ yodel…I used to have a manager who refused to give me my paycheque until she’d yelled Riiiiii-CO-laaaaa. Every. Freaking. Pay Period.

        2. Project Manager*

          There’s a bit in one of the Dirk Gently books where Dirk says he’s a private detective, and Kate pauses a moment, then tries to go on with the conversation. Dirk asks what she was thinking, and she says something like, “Well, my neighbor plays [a large stringed instrument, I forget which], and everyone who meets him says, ‘I bet you wish you played [a smaller stringed instrument].’ None of them ever work out that everyone else has said the same thing. So I was trying to figure out if there’s something that everyone always says to private detectives so I could avoid saying it.” Dirk replies, “Mostly people just get quiet and look shifty for a moment, and you did that very well.”

          My last name is the same as a worldwide business owned by an extremely wealthy family. I just go ahead and say, “Like the [business type], but no relation,” which heads off any jokes at the pass (the response is almost always a joking, “Oh, darn,” whereupon I chuckle and we move on). Luckily, no one feels the need to press it beyond that.

          1. Timothy (TRiG)*

            That scene popped into my mind too. I managed to track down the actual quote on TV Tropes. (I do own the book, but it’s in a box somewhere.)

            “I’m a private detective.”
            “Oh?” said Kate in surprise, and then looked puzzled.
            “Does that bother you?”
            “It’s just that I have a friend who plays the double bass.”
            “I see,” said Dirk.
            “Whenever people meet him and he’s struggling around with it, they all say the same thing, and it drives him crazy. They all say, ‘I bet you wished you played the piccolo.’ Nobody ever works out that that’s what everybody else says. I was just trying to work out if there was something that everybody would always say to a private detective so that I could avoid saying it.”
            “No. What happens is that everybody looks very shifty for a moment, and you got that very well.”

        3. Zudz*

          I work in a customer facing position, and have basically always have. I also hate to have the “Oh! You got your hair cut!” conversation ten times a day. At some point I managed to put two and two together and made myself a personal rule. If a user has a feature (name, accent, article of clothing, ect.) that makes me immediately think X, I must not, under any circumstance, say X. That also applies to the second thing I think of. If I managed to come up with something truly unique… also don’t say that. Just skip it. They’ve heard it before.

        4. MAC*

          My name is MaryAnne and the number of times I’ve been asked where Gilligan or The Professor are is off the charts. And then at one job, I supervised a woman named Ginger. And we both have red hair, so that was apparently confusing to people.

          My last name rhymes with “Wanna-be” and the number of times someone has made THAT joke is off a whole other chart.

          And that doesn’t even take into account the number of people, who, when I introduce myself or sign emails with my full name immediately respond with “Hi, Mary” or “Thanks, Mary.”

      2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        Why yes! I know I am not Polish. I know my surname isn’t also. I know my name is Polish. I would like to stop having to explain why my parents picked it

      3. Ms. Cheetoh*

        Totally empathize with the being tired. My sister and I both have names that are more commonly associated with (two different) ethnicities that neither of align with visually, so we get a lot of that too.

        I think I hit a breaking point with it around 25-26 and just wanted to be DONE. Someone made the mistake of catching me at work on a particularly “done” day and made the real version of my analogy’s (chip crunching) sound at me. I simply blanked them for uncomfortably long until they finally said “Er, you know, like the chip? Because cheetohs?” With a slightly befuddled expression I just said “No. I don’t know.” The followed up with “like the snack chip? Isn’t that the sound they make?” And I replied indifferently “I wouldn’t know, I’m not a snack chip salesman, I work in teapots.” and walked away.

        I’ve also taken to completely lying when I realized I don’t actually owe strangers my kindness. As a matter of fact my father was a chip salesman, but when people now make that joke I often blank them and say “No. Why do you ask?” then follow up the usual reply with “Oh, odd…. Again, no.” and let them simmer in their own discomfort for making the joke.

    2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      My sister shares a name with a brand of food, which my aunts commented on– extensively– when she was born. Apparently my father only once had to say “No, it is after my beloved late mother” for them to stop. I believe she responds to questions with a cheery “Yep! Family name!”

  7. Bubbeleh*

    A version of the Tommy strategy worked for me, too. I go pretty exclusively by a shortened version of my name. A vendor would argue with me that full names are the the only way to go. I finally got him to call my by my preferred version by calling him by a shortened version of his name every time he called me by my full name. I rolled my eyes at the childness of it, but IT WORKED.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      For the purpose of this story, my boss’ name is Missy. There was a receptionist when I started who directed me to Melissa. She was promoted the week before I started, so I hadn’t interviewed with her.
      So our first conversation, Missy? Not Melissa?
      I see you’ve been talking to Jane.
      Yes, so you don’t go by Melissa.
      No. Because it’s not my name. I’ve been here ten years. She won’t stop. She’s an ass.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I knew someone like that. I had a manager named Amanda who went by Manny. An old-school employee called her Mandy and would not be corrected.

      2. Zephy*

        My boss generally goes by a shortened version of her name, but she and others will occasionally introduce her using her full first name, and it isn’t what you would assume given the nickname. Think “Jen” for “Genevieve,” not “Jennifer.” She also has an accent that makes “Genevieve” sound a lot like “Jennifer,” especially over the phone. So people come in or call the office asking for “Jennifer” all the time. She laughs it off, but I’m sure it gets annoying sometimes.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      A former colleague’s fiance (now-husband) went through something like this – “ethnic” name that was rather long and complex for a lot of English speakers, so he went by an Anglicized short form (say “Fred” instead of “Federico”, though his actual name is more complex than that). In a phone interview, the interviewer apparently viewed the diminutive on his resume as “unprofessional” and kept trying to refer to him by the English version of the proper name (“Frederick”). The interviewer went so far as to push back when my colleague’s fiance tried to correct him back to “Fred”, lecturing him that it was unprofessional to use nicknames in a work context. At which point he finally snapped something along the lines of “Then call me by my proper name, Federico!”… which shut the guy up.

      I don’t think he wound up working there.

    3. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Family lore is that my dad started calling me by an even shorter version of my nickname (eg: given name Jennifer, family called me Jenny, dad calls me Jen) when I was 3 years old because that’s when I stopped calling him “daddy” and switched to “dad”.

      He was mightily affronted. “Dad?? I’m ‘daddy!’ How do you like it, Jen??” and because I was three I was like “cool yeah dad, thanks.”

      Dad laughed harder than I’ve ever seen him laugh in my life when I informed him last month that my own 3 year old has ceased calling me “mommy” in lieu of “mom”, and the visceral rage and instinctual “WHAT. Okay BOB if that’s what you want!” reaction came out. My child is also similarly unfazed by the continued shortening of their name.

      This… has no point, I’m sorry. Other than I think it’s highly amusing that this tactic apparently works on adults but is wholly ineffective on preschoolers.

    4. Art3mis*

      I’ve had similar things happen to me. For this story, let’s say my real name is Grizelda. For some reason A LOT of people call me Sonia. Why? No effing idea. It’s not even close and it certainly isn’t related or a diminutive. The only possible reason I can believe is because my married last name starts with Son and people get lazy? I don’t know, but the first person to do this knew me before I was married and no one ever thought my first name was a weird version of my maiden name. Anyway, usually I let this slide and chuckle or if you’re asking me for something, it might suddenly have a longer turn around time. But one time I had a coworker repeatedly call me Sonia via email, even though I kept signing replies with Grizelda. Like four times in an email chain he did this. The next email I addressed to Kevin. I think his name was Jeff. He got the idea.

      1. Al*

        My name sounds phonetically similar to Ella. So when I introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m Ella!” People somehow hear me say, “Hi! Emily!” At least, that what I reckon must be happening, because multiple people in multiple situations call me Emily after meeting me.

        I’ve started phrasing it as, “Hi, my name is Ella,” and so far it seems to be helping a little.

      2. Queer Earthling*

        This reminds me of a Twitter story from a few years ago. A woman named Summer had, for her whole life, been mistakenly called “Heather” by random people, for no apparent reason. A lot of strangers would use it, but also friends would call her Heather for some reason, and even her husband slipped out with “Heather” a few times.

        Summer happened to have been adopted, and as an adult decided to find out more about her background. Turns out that for whatever reason, when she was waiting to be adopted as a baby, she was given a randomized name in the holding facility…and of course, it was Heather.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      I have a difficult to pronounce name and have had SO MANY people literally “name me”. Like, “your name is too hard so I’m going to call you this instead”. WTF?! No! I took to calling men (because it was mostly men, go figure) who did that “Helen” or “Sparkles” in return. They would always be taken aback, despite the fact that they had done the same thing to me seconds before. “That’s not my name!” Really? Well I like it better than “Jim”. Not diplomatic, but it worked. This has not been nearly as much of a problem as I’ve gotten older, but the fact that it happened at all boggles my mind. Like, you don’t get to name people like pets.

  8. ACDC*

    Oh OP #2 I feel your pain. I have a foreign last name that English speaker are 1000000000% positive is pronounced one way, but is actually not. Whenever I correct them, I always say “It’s actually pronounced X, I know it’s not intuitive!” The response is always “That doesn’t make sense, it’s not spelled that way. You should change the spelling so people will know how to say it.” Well human, other cultures have different alphabets than we do and therefore pronounce certain letter combinations differently.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Are we related?
      God save me from the people who tell me that my name is spelled wrong!
      “Well, you’re not in “the old country” you should change it.”

    2. LENENE*

      I have a similar but almost opposite problem. My name is a common diminutive form of a European (in lots of languages) name (it was my grandmother’s nickname). However, my parents always pronounced it the English way. Now I work in a business where I deal with Europeans a lot (including some of my coworkers) and a lot of them pronounce it the European way. I’ve pretty much given up on correcting them and respond to both. One notable time though I was waiting on a woman and when I ran her credit card I realized we had the same name. I said to her “I noticed we have the same name! I’ve never met someone else named [American pronunciation].” She looked at me coldly and said “it’s pronounced [European pronunciation].” Oh well.

    3. I know my name, thanks*

      I feel this pain with my first name – people do NOT tend to be gracious about accepting the correct pronunciation and one time an interviewer even spent five minutes telling me stories about other people with the name who spell it differently, as if to convince me of my wrongness. It’s very confusing when people take your name as a challenge and personal insult.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Yes, I’m not accusing you of anything from racism to stupidity or whatever in between you feel I have attacked you with. My name is not about you.

      2. Auntie Social*

        And why do I care how other people spell it? I’ve been putting up with this my whole life, even after I explain that it’s a family name. Go back 5 generations, dig them up, tell them they did it wrong. Is it wrong to say that I didn’t ask their opinion??

    4. No Relation (to Coke)*

      I’ll admit, when my sister said she was naming her daughter Saoirse, my first response was “why, are you already mad at her for something?” It’s a lovely name, but her own father couldn’t spell it right in the birth announcement! She’s gonna spend her whole life explaining to everyone how to say it and how to spell it (unless they’re fans of Saoirse Ronan AND have heard her talk about how to say her name). Given that my sister (and I, and our mother!) are in that boat already, I always wondered why she’d do it. It’s rapidly becoming family tradition.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        This would be why I did not take my husband’s last name. The year before we were married, it was misspelled 4 times in print, including twice where he or I specifically noted ‘it is not spelled the normal way.’ The ‘mispelled twice, differently, in the credits of the short film he was an extra in’ (once in the beginning, a different way at the end) was the final straw.

        My last name is often mispronounced, but it’s short and easy to spell.

      2. Al*

        Make me think of the show Catastrophe, when Rob had to pause to remind himself how to say his daughter’s name before saying it each time. Muireann.

        1. Mary*

          I loved that. My partner’s Irish and she had exactly the same, “what? It’s a PERFECTLY NORMAL NAME!” reaction that Sharon has in the series.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      Ugh. I’m fortunate (?) that English-speakers generally have no idea how to pronounce my last name so they don’t have preconceived notions of what it should be. But that also means I’ve heard 1000 different ways of saying it including people simply *not* saying it at all. I had one person tell me “those letters don’t go together” when looking at the spelling of my name. Well, yes they do, and they’re in my name and I’m trying to tell you how to say it.

  9. Professional Straphanger*

    Ref letter #2:
    “I think some of the frustration here is probably just having to go through this so many times with so many different people, even if most people aren’t all that rude about it. ”

    I have this exact problem. I have a traditional feminine Northern European name with the traditional spelling – and people routinely butcher the pronunciation.

    The first seven lines of any phone conversation with someone new go something like this:
    Me: Hello?
    Person Who Has Apparently Never Been Outside The U.S.: Hi, I’m looking for [outrageous mangling of my first name].
    Me: It’s [correct pronunciation], how can I help you?
    Them (confused): Hunh?
    Me: It’s pronounced [correct pronunciation]. How can I help you?
    Them: Oh, it’s spelled [correct spelling] on here.
    Me: Yes, that’s correct. (an edge creeps into my voice) Now how can I help you?

    Sometimes I can’t hide my annoyance (fortunately I am not in a customer-facing position) and the person I’m talking to gets annoyed with me because I am getting annoyed with them. Hey, nothing personal. (OK, it’s kind of personal.) It may be your first encounter with my name but I deal with this almost every time I deal with someone new. And this doesn’t include the people who don’t even realize it’s a feminine name: “Oh…you’re a girl?”


      1. Professional Straphanger*

        Perhaps it was a bit harsh but my n=1 experience has been that people who have traveled are more likely to get it right. Plus, this is my NAME we’re talking about here, the thing that I go through life with and other people identify me by. I think I’m allowed to get a little grouchy when I have that exact conversation several times a month.

        1. NECT*

          You’re allowed to get grouchy– “it’s obnoxious when people try to tell me how to pronounce my own name or blame me when they don’t know how” is fine– but the dig at people who don’t travel comes across kind of, “UGH these UNCULTURED AMERICANS who’ve NEVER TRAVELED,” so, like, classist. They’re being obnoxious because they’re being obnoxious, not because they haven’t had the privilege of traveling. (I’m sure a lot of the folks who get YOUR name right would be similarly obnoxious about a name that wasn’t intuitive for them, too– it’s not the travel that’s the problem, it’s the inability to gracefully accept a correction!)

      2. annakarina1*

        Yeah, that sounded pretty bad. My first and so far only trip outside of North America was in 2016 because I often couldn’t afford to go away for big international trips.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Is it Siobhan?

      That one blows my American trained mind. I only learned in my late 30s it because I watched a British show with a character names Siobhan with CC on and heard them say it multiple time. And I still think of the pronunciation as close to Shuvan.

      I had been (internally only thankfully) referring to an actress with that names as “See-o-ban”.

      1. Timothy (TRiG)*

        British people can’t pronounce the name Siobhán either. They get the bh = v part correct, but they always make the final vowel short. It’s a long vowel: hence the fada. It rhymes with pawn, not on. Irish spelling is actually very regular and straightforward, but it’s also very very different to English spelling.

        1. SarahKay*

          *Puts up hand* Me, me, I’m a Brit and I do in fact pronounce Siobhán to rhyme with pawn. Although, *guilty look* possibly because I had, like Person from the Resume, previously been thinking See-o-ban and thus paid attention when I discovered the correct pronunciation.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Interesting. Could you translate that a little for US English speakers?

          In my dialect (US Midwest, some US South), pawn and on rhyme, so I am not familiar with the sounds you’re describing. I would describe the sound as ‘ohn’.

          My US friend named Siobhán – her end sound is more like the US NE (Maine, NH, VT) version of ‘on’, which I would describe as ‘ahn’.

          When I see ‘long vowel’ for ‘an’, I would transcribe it as ‘ān’, and it would rhyme with ‘vane’ or ‘vain’ (homophones in my dialect). Are you saying ‘Shu-vān’ is a common Irish pronunciation, or am I over-emphasizing the ‘long’ part in my head, and ‘Shu-vahn’ is closer?

          My apologies for the non-professional stabs at phonetic description.

          1. Timothy (TRiG)*

            I have an interest in linguistics, and actually studied it a little, but phonology is a weak point and IPA transcription is mostly beyond me. (To be honest, I’m most interested in sign languages.)

            Wikipedia has an IPA chart with audio, but even that is tricky to use, as the way vowels sound in isolation can be quite hard for an untrained person, such as myself, to match up with how they sound in a word. I think the vowel in on is /ɒ/ or /ɔ/, while that in pawn is /ɔː/ or /oː/ (so yes, perhaps the same vowel, certainly similar). Does your dialect have the cot/caught merger? They’re very distinct sounds in mine.

          2. Mary*

            Dawn and Don are very, very different sounds for most English English speakers, and neither of them is Dane! I don’t know if you can hear how we’d pronounce Dawn and Don (I think you may not have the sound we’d use for Don at all?) but Timothy means that we’d pronounce it to rhyme with (how we say) Don when it should rhyme with (how we say) Dawn.

        3. Emma*

          Oh, damn! I’ve heard people say “Shavonne” but assumed it was a different name, not that they were trying to pronounce Siobhan!

          Luckily I’ve known lots of people with Irish names over the years, so I generally get them right. But my Irish friend was pissing herself watching me try to pronounce the names of train stations around Dublin (Dun Laoghaire, anyone?)

          1. Emma*

            There’s a client at work called Shaun, who always introduces himself – to help staff find him on our system – as “Shaun, spelled properly”. By now I know what he means, but always ask “and which way is that?” just to rib him.

        4. Media Monkey*

          possibly you mean english people? most scottish people do very well with irish names and i would absolutely say it with -awn

      2. Laney Boggs*

        Irish names throw me for a loop a lot too. For years, in my head, I referred to my best friend’s sister as “Rise” (which actually I think is quite pretty but not her name). I’m in the habit of googling Irish names now.

        I’m really glad for this script – the pronunciation of my name isnt intuitive. Truly, my parents did spell it wrong and should have added an extra vowel. Think J-E-N but said “Jean.” There are people who didnt say it right after months of working together.

        1. Timothy (TRiG)*

          I’m trying to work out what Irish name you’re thinking of, and the only one I can come up with is Rys, which is a male Welsh name.

  10. Berry*

    The first one is really relatable for me! Thank you so much for the answer! My job is a lot of people in their 20s and 30s and had a lot of ups and downs socially.

    About a month after I first joined I accidentally found out that a big group of my coworkers had a group chat without me (but including someone who joined after me, so I knew it wasn’t just an old group). I also had an interaction where I was leaving for the weekend and someone asked me if I was going to someone’s barbecue the next day and that’s how I learned about the barbecue (I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway). I was finally added to the group chat about two months later and it naturally died out a few months after that. About a year later I asked one of my coworkers, who I had become good friends with, about it and it turns out that it was just one coworker who made the group chat, was sloppy about adding people, and no one knew why I wasn’t included from the beginning! So it was really just a case of it being a mistake.

    My workplace isn’t perfect – the cliques have changed recently and one person who’s has a bit of “social power” definitely isn’t my fan, but now that I’ve been here for a while it’s a lot easier to not care as much. I also relate to the ‘spectrum’ aspect of OP1’s question – I have ADHD and part of that is “rejection sensitivity disorder” (it sucks), but often taking a step back from a situation and clearly laying it out as “are they really against me or is this just my brain misreading this” helps a lot!

    (That being said, the office culture is a big reason I’m looking for a new job but it’s not so bad that I’ll quit without finding something.)

    1. Anon and on an on*

      “rejection sensitivity disorder”
      So you are right there with me thinking that they invited me as a prank and I’ll be the only one there? We should hang out.

  11. Bernice Clifton*

    Am I a stick in the mud for thinking #3 doesn’t need to do these types of check-ins at all for a business meeting? Maybe part of the problem is that the dieting coworker feels like she is required to come up with something and she’s not planning a wedding, having a baby, buying a house, adopting a pet and doesn’t really know what to say?

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        Really? It’s agonizing to, once a month, share (and hear) two sentences about what’s going on in your coworkers lives outside of work?

        We all want workplaces that treat us as humans with lives outside of work. Part of how that happens is through acknowledging the things that matter to folks beyond the work they do.

        I’m genuinely baffled by the number of folks on here who seem to think that any interaction with coworkers that isn’t strictly related to the task at hand is oppressive.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, I agree with you that I often see that sentiment here (and think it’s very odd), but I don’t think that’s what it is in this particular case. It’s aggravating to want to get down to business in a meeting and have to have everyone do a “personal check-in” first. Talking to your coworkers is good! Chit chat is fine! Forcing it in this way before a meeting can start would annoy me.

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            I think this is such a cultural thing. Everywhere I’ve worked this would be very normal (assuming these are relatively small meetings, so the check-in could be wrapped up in 10 minutes or less). 10 minutes a month to connect with coworkers is really minimal.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Oh, I don’t disagree that it’s normal in a lot of places. But it’s still annoying to some people, including me. It’s not “10 minutes a month to connect with coworkers” — I’m connecting with coworkers in all kinds of ways throughout the month, organically. I’m happy to talk to them in non-forced ways. But I’d prefer to get the meeting started because I have a crap-ton of work waiting back at my desk and don’t like sitting through what feels to me like an artificial exercise. I recognize that some people like it and do feel more connected as a result — but it’s also reasonable to recognize that some people don’t, and that doesn’t make them anti-social curmudgeons.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I will add, I have way less objection to a general “any updates anyone wants to share before we get started?” (as opposed to going around the table and waiting for each person to say something, whether or not they have anything they really feel moved to share).

              2. Allypopx*

                ^ This. So many of us are bogged down with meetings anyway that stretching them out by 10 minutes for pointless chit chat does feel kind of agonizing. I’m happy to check in casually, at my convenience or in the hall or at the water cooler or whatever, but this forced stilted kind of sharing would drive me up a wall.

              3. Lucette Kensack*

                Agreed that not everyone likes it, and it doesn’t make them anti-social curmudgeons. But that perspective isn’t nearly as pervasive as folks here seem to think it is (and nor are folks who do like connecting with their colleagues goof-offs and time-wasters).

          2. Arya Snark*

            All of my company meetings start this way – from the leadership team I’m on down to all the team meetings. It’s a program (EOS) we pay a ridiculous amount of $ to use. EOS has helped the company tremendously so I think it’s valuable but I still struggle with the check-in (called the segue) with each meeting. Most people have kids and are extroverts while I tend to stay home with my dog & partner – I’m boring in comparison but I like my life just fine. That said, continuous talk of diets in meetings and in other convos would bother me too. This coming from someone who has worked on losing a significant amount of weight in the past year and works with people who coach people professionally (triathletes & team sports) and our EOS facilitator is a sports psychologist who works with Olympians. I do mention my progress occasionally and the coworker (who I’m close with) that trains the triathletes will share the occasional recipe with me but that’s where it ends, thankfully.

            1. Daisy-dog*

              We use the same program. It’s nice for us because it’s an international phone call, so it’s people that I don’t chat with while microwaving lunch, etc. Some of our other employees are really interesting. Diet talk happens, but thankfully not often.

          3. pamplemousse*

            Yeah, I like my coworkers and like interacting with them, and this would annoy me too. It seems to have high “go around the room with one person sharing at a time” potential, which is the worst meeting mode in any group larger than 4 or 5 even if the question they’re answering is work-related.

        2. Senor Montoya*

          Yes, it is indeed extremely unpleasant to check in about my personal life in this way. If I want to share personal news (and I do! daily!), I share it informally while waiting for coffee in the breakroom. I would feel on the spot and my private life barged in on if it’s *mandatory* and it’s at the start of a *work meeting*.

          And I’ve worked with many of these very nice people for a long time. Keep the personal stuff out of work meetings thank you very much.

          Some of my colleagues, like you, would not see this as unpleasant. Cool. You do you, don’t presume that you know how to do me AND please don’t make me do you.

          LOL, sorry, this scratched me!

          1. Elsajeni*

            Yeah, this is the part of it that I would find somewhere between “annoying” and “agonizing,” depending on what kind of month it’s been — feeling put on the spot to come up with some personal update to share that is work-appropriate, upbeat enough not to make the meeting awkward, and more interesting than “this month I have continued to do all the same stuff I do every month.” If “nothing much!” is an acceptable answer, or if this is purely an opt-in “does anyone have any news to share?” thing, I may still feel like it’s a bit of a time-waster, but whatever, if other people like it I’m happy to go along — just pleeeeease don’t expect every person to have a news item to share every time.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Yes, agonizing. I’m busy. I probably already don’t want to be at this meeting. This meeting may or may not even be necessary. I more than likely don’t have anything I want to share but not sharing will stall out the sharing session and call even more attention to me. I definitely don’t want to hear Coworker talk about her diet for the 1,572nd time. Also, I’m at work: Nobody here needs to hear anything about my personal life. Please, for the love of all that is holy, just let us get on with this and go back to our jobs.

          I like my job and I like my coworkers. We talk about stuff all the time, but over lunch or whenever it seems normal, not on-demand so our bosses can feel better about morale or whatever purpose this is supposed to serve.

        4. Anon for this*

          Lucette- I find it odd too, and it leaves me wondering do most people feel this way? I enjoy getting to know people (in a work appropriate) way. Its just my nature. In fact the place I work now, is very guarded with how much personal info they share with co-workers. I thinks an industry thing. I def I have respected that and try not ask personal questions to my co-workers. It still feels odd to know next to nothing about someone I see, every day for 40 hours a week. Oh well. The old annoying adage is true here. “It is what it is.”

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            I agree with you, but not in a work meeting, where the purpose should be to efficiently strategize/impart work stuff, then get everyone back to work. It shouldn’t effectively be personal busywork that prolongs the meeting and keeps us all from getting to our work. Getting to know our coworkers is awesome but should happen outside meetings.

        5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Not in a forced setting though, where people are *required*, in a *work meeting*, to share their personal updates with their entire work group.

          To me the message it would send would be the opposite of “this workplace treats us like humans outside of work!”

          If and when my coworker trusts me enough to tell me these things about themselves, they will. Trust is always earned. Never given. Never something you can just magically produce because your boss ordered you to.

        6. Bostonian*

          Bernice definitely wasn’t saying they should NEVER talk about anything outside of work.

          What’s agonizing is being forced to share something personal on the spot at a meeting. Especially if it’s a weekly meeting. What could have possibly changed for me in a week?

          This doesn’t make me inhuman: I socialize at work when I want and with whom I want. I have good relationships with the people I work with. The “share something personal NOW at this meeting” is the equivalent of forced “fun” team building. That’s why some people are resisting it.

          1. Goliath Corp.*

            Ugh, yes. Forced team-building is my worst nightmare. I am very friendly with my coworkers, socialize with some of them outside of work and enjoy the occasional office outing — but forced “fun” activities are about as fun as a dental cleaning.

        7. Jean*

          Anything that wastes time in a meeting is a no for me. Meetings are largely a waste of time as it is, so adding forced “personal sharing time” is completely out of line in my view. I wouldn’t call it oppressive, but I would definitely object.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You might be, but I agree with you. A “personal check-in”? That just seems weird to me, and I am very much not against personal conversation in the office and usually have a “check-in” with people who show up early to meetings. I don’t even know what I would share! “We finished that Netflix documentary last night, finally,” “I went to visit my parents, it sucked,” “I made cauliflower rice for the first time and it was really good!” I mean… why?

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        They’re misusing the check-ins. Personal check-ins should be about things that might affect you in the meeting – personal or professional. So “My grandfather died so I’m feeling distracted; please bear with me” or “I’m very worried about how we’re going to meet this project timeline given the other requests coming in” to “Had a great weekend, nothing more to say” to “I’m find and eager to get started.”

        It’s not a requirement to reveal personal stuff – it’s about providing co-workers with a sense of where you are at at that moment. It requires trust and can build trust. It will not work in a dysfunctional workplace, but in a good one it can make things even better.

        1. OP #3*

          This is how I would describe our check-ins! Non-work things often affect our work (someone dealing with a death may have less patience than usual for difficult clients) and since we’re a very social and tight-knit bunch…these things would often come up anyway. It helps keep our meetings on track!

          1. Working Mom*

            I wonder if the dieter is sharing personal diet progress as a way to keep herself/himself accountable to their diet? Maybe this person has created this mindset of “I will have to report to my team next week… so I need to stick to my diet so I have good news to share!” And… that this person has absolutely zero idea that it could be upsetting to other people?

    2. Ali G*

      Seriously! I mean for me right now it would be some combo of “this week we fixed X at the house” or “yay my dog’s heart murmur is stable” or “I made really good chicken for dinner last night.”
      Who cares? No one but me cares about those things.

    3. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Nope. You missed my rant. Waste of time, energy and focus. Serves no purpose. If my company wants me to meet with others once a month, there better be business reason. And if they want to get together once a month to socialize, provide some food and let us mingle. You can’t have both.

    4. Marny*

      This is a good point. I have no idea what I would say at these check-ins. If I didn’t have any “news” going on, this would kind of stress me out feeling I needed to come up with something to contribute.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        I’d always go with a work thing or a little joke: I finished up that pile of TPS reports! Joan in IT says they can fix that problem with my email! Oh, you know, the usual — saving lives, filing reports!

    5. Kiwiii*

      I imagine it’s to try and facilitate personal connections in the team (oh, Jane mentioned she just adopted a cat, I can mention that now when following up about that other thing I need her to do), but you’re probably right that it tends towards inappropriate sharing and/or feeling like it might be Required for the thing they’re focused on.

    6. Third or Nothing!*

      It would be annoying for sure. I like getting out of the house and doing stuff on the weekends, but my updates would all be along the lines of “I ran a 10K over the weekend and it had a cool medal, want to see?” and “I didn’t have a race this week so I ran 6 miles on the trails” and “I went for a hike” and “I got injured and I can’t run for 2 weeks so I’m going stir crazy.” My coworkers would hate me.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Oh I missed the part where it’s monthly – I was thinking weekly. Still, most of my updates would be running related. It’s a big part of my life and takes up a lot of my time. I’m sure it would get old fast if I had to provide those updates in meetings.

        1. Antilles*

          Nah, it would be totally fine. Those are pretty much *exactly* the kind of updates that a personal check-in is intended for – a two sentence “yo, this is one small interesting thing that happened last month” and that’s that. Basically, it’s the equivalent of the kind of simple low level chit-chat you’d have if the meeting organization was five minutes late and you were all sitting in the conference room waiting.

    7. Jedi Squirrel*

      I agree. Passive-agressive me would want to derail this whole thing. My thoughts:

      1) Go TMI on a medical issue. Give all the great details of your last colonoscopy, read out parts of the report as if you were making a royal pronouncement, etc.

      2) Go into details on a totally irrelevant hobby: “This weekend I built all the Harry Potter lego sets! Let me show you pictures!”

      3) Go into the most boring, mundane details of your weekend. Vacuumed the living room, washed all the silverware, dewormed the cat.

      Totally passive-aggressive, totally unprofessional, but this sounds like such a ridiculous thing to me.

  12. Dust Bunny*

    My name is not Persephone but it’s along those lines in terms of obscurity and unfamiliarity to a lot of people. I rolled along with being called Penelope and Perse-fone and Penny and Sophia and stuff for years because I was bashful about correcting people.

    Now I’m fortysomething and over it: I will absolutely correct you every single time you mess it up. I don’t use a nickname and there is no fun mnemonic to help you, you’re just gonna have to suck it up, pay attention when I explain it, and learn it.

  13. Antilles*

    If literally every single person in your office is going across the street for after-work drinks and talking about it in front of you on the regular, there’s a 99.99% chance that you are and have always been invited and people assume you already know that.
    I’m glad this was said, because that’s usually been my assumption unless it’s a ticketed event (e.g., concert) or something with an obvious and defined guest list (e.g., wedding): If you’re making plans about an event in front of my face, knowing that I’m in the conversation…then that discussion itself indicates that I’m invited to those plans and my presence would be welcome. If you didn’t want me there, you would not have been discussing it so openly.

    1. Old Cynic*

      I’m near as introverted as they come, but also love to stir the pot.

      If I knew I was purposely excluded from a casual event like this, I would show up just to cause (some people) discomfort.

    2. littlelizard*

      >If you’re making plans about an event in front of my face, knowing that I’m in the conversation…then that discussion itself indicates that I’m invited to those plans and my presence would be welcome. If you didn’t want me there, you would not have been discussing it so openly.

      I have learned the hard way that a lot of people have not been brought up with this particular bit of etiquette. It’s very jarring to have plans made in front of you and to go ‘oh ok, so we’re meeting at [place] at [time]” or whatever other contribution to the plan, and be stared at like you’re an intruding mushroom person. Seriously people, stop making people feel rude for thinking the very normal, generally-social plans you make in front of them aren’t an Exclusive Secret, when it’s the public planning of Exclusive Secret things that is rude.

      1. Close Bracket*

        Yes. I am spectrum, and I have learned social conventions by careful study and making a lot of mistakes. There is a social convention where people discuss events in front of other people and the assumption is that everyone in hearing distance is included. There is another social convention where people discuss events in front of other people and inviting yourself along is rude. There is yet another social convention where someone issues something that sounds like an invitation, like, “will you be there?” but the recipient is supposed to politely turn it down bc they haven’t been actually invited. How the frick you allistic people know which of these conventions is in play for any given event is beyond me, but I have burned enough times that I go nowhere unless someone has at the very least told me individually where and when to go. Hearing “Hey Fergus, are you going to happy hour?” when I am standing right next to Fergus is not enough for me to invite myself along. I need to hear, “Hey Fergus, are you going to happy hour? CB, it’s a Corner Pub at 5.”

        1. Oh So Anon*

          I’m not on the spectrum, but I’m also someone who likes getting explicit invites. It’s not because I tend to show up to things I’m not expected to go to, but it just makes me feel included rather than being on the periphery of things and an afterthought. It’s more of an issue in smaller group settings, but it’s still a thing.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            Same. I also tend not to ask if I can come in such situations — I worry that they’d feel obligated to say yes even if they didn’t want me there!

        2. Antilles*

          My thoughts on these, with the caveat that I tend to be more straightforward than the average person:
          There is a social convention where people discuss events in front of other people and the assumption is that everyone in hearing distance is included.
          In most situations, this is usually a good default to fall back on unless it’s blatantly obvious why not (e.g., wife and her siblings are discussing a sister’s night), because it’s typically considered very rude to discuss an event in front of someone who’s not invited.
          There is another social convention where people discuss events in front of other people and inviting yourself along is rude.
          Since it’s far ruder to “invite yourself” than to “talk about an event in front of someone who’s not welcome”, I fall back on my simple answer from the initial comment – if you’re mentioning it in front of me, I’m automatically assuming that’s an open invitation.
          There is yet another social convention where someone issues something that sounds like an invitation, like, “will you be there?” but the recipient is supposed to politely turn it down bc they haven’t been actually invited.
          Also a simple answer in my mind: You ask a question, you live with the answer. If you’re asking me whether I’ll be there, you’re accepting the risk that I’ll say heck yeah let’s do it.

          1. Close Bracket*

            Since it’s far ruder to “invite yourself” than to “talk about an event in front of someone who’s not welcome”,

            Says you. Which is a brusque way of saying, people have all sorts of beliefs about the rankings of rudeness, and your belief is not universal.

            I fall back on my simple answer from the initial comment – if you’re mentioning it in front of me, I’m automatically assuming that’s an open invitation.

            Given your beliefs about the rudeness rankings of the two situations, you go with the ruder one? That would not be my choice.

            Given my own belief that allistic people are not the social geniuses they think they are, I’m not going to change my behavior.

            1. Antilles*

              So I actually said that backwards – talking about an event in front of someone is typically considered ruder than inviting yourself. No edit function unfortunately.
              And I did not in ANY WAY intend for you to change your behavior; as I said upfront, I know that I tend to handle things far more straightforward, I was just giving my take on your scenarios.

          2. Spencer Hastings*

            “Since it’s far ruder to ‘invite yourself’ than to ‘talk about an event in front of someone who’s not welcome’”, that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. You must have a much higher risk tolerance than I do, because your reasoning sounds totally backwards to me, LOL.

            1. Antilles*

              I had changed my wording a couple times and accidentally said it backwards – talking about an event in front of someone who’s not welcome is typically considered far ruder than inviting yourself.
              …But I certainly won’t deny having a higher risk tolerance than most, because if you’re talking about the event in front of me (and I want to go), I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to invite myself while it seems like a lot of people would. To be honest, in a work-related scenario, I probably wouldn’t even phrase it as a question and instead just jump straight to “oh, cool, I’ll see you guys at Poor Richard’s at 6”.

        3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          I think one factor to keep in mind (I’m still sorting out my philosophy for myself) is whether there’s a material difference between your relationship with the people making plans and their relationship to each other.
          I’m in a group chat with several friends and occasionally a couple of them will be like, “Meet on our lunch breaks?” and I know that’s a them thing both because they live 20 minutes from each other while I live and work 2 hours from them. Similarly, a very very close group of friends who I’m close but less close with have made plans in front of me–but I don’t take offense to it because it’s Person A and B who have been besties since they were 5, Person A’s second best friend, and Person B’s fiancee. But I do have friends who would be deeply hurt if they were in a similar position

          I think there’s also a happy medium between making plans in front of an uninvited person, and not needing to keep plans that don’t include everyone a sworn secret. “See you later, Jane,” even if other people are around seems fine.

          A hobby/social organization that I’m part of has a Discord server with a “hangout planning” section, and the idea is–if you post a hangout there, you are inviting *everybody*.
          That same group will go to a diner after events, and it’s understood that everyone is invited–but this is making me feel like maybe it should be made more explicit. Sometimes it’ll be announced at closing meeting, but sometimes it’s just everyone after going, “It’s *diner name*, right?” or “You going?” but no guarantee that every single person gets approached.

        4. Llama Face!*

          “How the frick you allistic people know which of these conventions is in play for any given event is beyond me, but I have burned enough times that I go nowhere unless someone has at the very least told me individually where and when to go.”

          Well I’m not on the spectrum* but I’m with you on this. It is massively confusing which unwritten rule applies- and I have a horror of being the tolerated but secretly unwelcome outsider- so I usually assume I’m not invited unless someone specifically invites me. It doesn’t help that in my part of Canada (and Canada in general) people tend to be indirect about things so they will act the same if you are NOT invited vs just overlooked. Sigh.

          *Or so say the lists they give to categorize people. I have checked a few times/ways since I do have some spectrum-ish traits.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      Yes, when I was younger I used to feel very left out when this sort of thing happened — I finally learned to ask someone who was both a nice person and reliable (= likely to remember), “Hey, the next time you guys go get coffee, grab me on your way out”. I often have an “I’m WORKING” demeanor, turns out folks just didn’t want to disturb me, they were trying to be respectful of my time.

      Also, OP, Alison’s advice to do the inviting is a good one. Something low level and and easy, like, Hey, I’m heading over to Pretentious Coffee, do you need a caffeine break or a walk? Start with someone who seems especially friendly or outgoing, but try to invite others as well — I’ve made a connection with people I ordinarily don’t work with a lot.

  14. Parcae*

    For #2, I think a lot of people have That One Thing about them they keep getting dragged into conversation about. Tall people get remarks on their height, redheads get hair commentary, etc., etc. Me, I used to get a lot of remarks about my last name. The key to preserving your sanity is remembering that while this is the 31,622nd time you’ve had this exchange, it’s usually the first for whoever you’re talking to.

    The good news is you don’t need seventeen one-liners for shutting people down; you just need one that you can deploy over and over again for the rest of your life. In my experience, the more automatic you can make the exchange, the less energy you’ll expend worrying about it. Turn the pronunciation of your name into a “Hey, how are you? / Great, thanks, and you?” exchange and embrace the inanity.

    (To all the people who have ever had to follow me around at a cocktail party and hear my one joke delivered 17 times, sorry, not sorry.)

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I also got lots of remarks about my last name! My maiden name was a unit of currency. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the same tired lame jokes and had to explain “yes, like the money. Yes it’s also spelled that way.” I finally started saying “FirstName LastName, just like [unit of currency].” Saved a wee bit of time trying to explain to people who needed to write my name down how to actually spell my last name.

      1. Zephy*

        Yup. My last name is also a city. My name might as well be “Zephy Paris-like-the-city.” It’s not Paris but along those lines – everyone has heard of it and knows approximately where in the world it is, kind of thing. People still manage to spell it wrong occasionally, though.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Growing up, the name of my church was effectively “The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints No We’re Not Mormons.”

        2. Close Bracket*

          My last name is a common English word. I feel like last names of that nature, common word or city or whatnot, sort of throw people. I can’t figure out why, but it’s something I have noticed.

    2. littlelizard*

      Yep, I have an incredibly dumb conversation about my last name with nearly everyone I meet (coworkers, friends, doctors, cashiers, etc). I’ve started responding to “how do I pronounce your last name” with a cheerful “you probably don’t!”. It doesn’t prevent the rest of the dumb conversation, unfortunately, but it does help me feel a little better about it.

  15. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Regarding names – maybe I’m in the minority but after decades in staffing, I find it easy to remember names and pronunciation. It’s just common courtesy to call people what they want to be called, right? Not Jim, James. Not Liz, Elizabeth. And not Care-ah, CAHR-ah. It’s really not that hard to do if you consider it SOP.

    My own name is a pretty common one but people sometimes get it wrong. Think Shirley instead of Cheryl. Occasionally when I correct(ed) someone using the techniques listed above, they pushed back: ‘Oh, I can’t remember that/I’m awful with names/You look like a Shirley/Are you sure?’ And I pushed back again: ‘I have faith in you because you’re a polite person, and I know you don’t want to insult me by continuing to call me by the wrong name. It’s Cheryl.’ And I look at them expectantly. Sometimes they harrumph, but mostly they apologize and call me Cheryl.

    1. fposte*

      I’ll put in a plea for mercy in the other direction, though. If you know several people with variants, it’s really easy to slip into the wrong version. I do this with friends of decades sometimes, so it’s not because I don’t know that she’s Betsy; it’s that I work with Betty and Bitsy. I usually correct it along the way, but if I know the person less well and usually deal with them in print, I may not reliably remember who’s the Tah-ra and who’s the Tay-ra.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Be assured, I push back like that when people I work with repeatedly call me by the wrong name despite my repeated – yet pleasant! – correction. But I still don’t have a lot of sympathy. Using the right name is part of being a good corporate citizen.

        1. fposte*

          I think getting people’s names confused isn’t being a bad corporate citizen, though, as long as they’re/we’re gracious about the correction. I deal with hundreds of names every day, and some of them just leak a little.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I know nothing ever happens perfectly each and every time. I’ve had lapses, too, but I apologize for them and make an effort not to lapse again. So yeah, if someone has a lapse, I understand. If they keep having them, in spite of my polite requests, I don’t stay quite so sanguine.

            Calling someone by their preferred, correct name is not optional. Show me you’re trying, and I won’t be snippy – but I’ll still correct you!

            1. fposte*

              And I’m totally game for being corrected, and people mispronouncing really, absolutely shouldn’t get annoyed blame the name owner for it. I’m just on the side of “Mistakes are not personal and they’re not a signal of disrespect.”

              1. BikeLover*

                Agree. For me, it is terribly embarrassing that I can’t remember names. I apologize and take correction without getting snippy, but I just have a hard time with it. I work in medical care and meet hundreds of people a week but sometimes forget the name of a nurse I have worked with for years. I know it comes across as disrespectful, and I try very hard, but name recognition is not a skill I have. If you look down on me because of that, that is fine, but I’m not doing it on purpose.

              2. Megan*

                I think the frequency with which parents call their own children by the wrong name shows that errors are pretty common even with people who clearly know what the right name is, since they gave it in the first place!

                1. Pomona Sprout*

                  It’s true about parents. My dad used to get my name switched around with my younger sister’s all the time. Sometimes he would just throw up his hands and say “SusanMaria!” like it was all one word, rather trying to figure out which one of the names he meant. We didn’t mind at all. It became a running family joke.

      2. JessicaTate*

        Yes, me too! I’m trying really hard. I really want to get it right. But I work with an unusually high number of Kirstens and Kristens across a range of companies. If I interact with you frequently, sure, I have it locked down. But with people I know, but interact with infrequently… every time, my brain spasms and I cannot remember if they are a Kir or a Kri. I feel AWFUL when I mess up, because I know who you are and all the awesome things you do, I just cannot disentangle those two names in my brain.

    2. Captain Awkward*

      Hello! Unfortunately, it can be really “that hard” to remember names – I have ADHD and will forget a person’s name that they just said 5 seconds ago, they might tell me again and I will forget again, and the more flustered and ashamed and anxious I get the more I will keep forgetting. I have tried repeating it back to them, using it in a sentence, rhyming it with things mentally, literally all the tricks people recommend to remember, but my brain doesn’t work like that.

      Because names are important and worth working on, I work really hard at it.
      Stuff that helps:

      Visual reminders – Social media is a godsend because I will literally look up the names and faces of people who I see a few times a year at the same party but not in between online to remind myself before I go. When I taught college courses, the first assignment in my class was to upload a recognizable photo to the LMS and tell us how to pronounce your name even if you think we’d already know.

      Context – assigning context, remembering stories & details about the person. “I remember *you*, you were telling me all about (fun hobby/media interest/professional thing) when we talked at (event/place/person’s house), but forgive me, tell me your name again?” I’m lucky to have a spouse who is good with names and will ask him to remind me who someone is before I talk to them.

      With former students (1500+ and counting) I will say, “You made the film about _____, right? Please, remind me of your name!” because I can remember the images/stories pretty clearly but the name will always be hard. (Titles of books/shows/movies are the same. Me: “It was the Doctor Who episode with the disembodied gray hand moving in the pile of rubble that I saw when I was 8” My former roommate: “Oh, [Exact Episode Title]?”

      The Letter Writer was asking what to do when people automatically correct her pronunciation of her own name, not what happens when they can’t remember her name, but I really think it’s worth saying “It’s really not that hard” means “It’s really not that hard…for you” (And I’m glad it’s easy for you, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone). I replied at length not to pick on you, but because names are so important and people assume that not remembering them is automatically a sign of rudeness or not caring, and that’s not always the case. :)

      1. new kid*

        +1 I’m terrible with names and this: “the more flustered and ashamed and anxious I get the more I will keep forgetting” is the worst and most true thing for me.

        The worst possible was the roommate I had in college during my study abroad. I literally lived with her for nearly 6 months, but I could never remember her name. I would try to put myself in situations where she had to introduce herself to someone else, but even then, after all the prep and forethought I put in to engineering the situation, I would STILL forget. The only saving grace was that I don’t think I ever let on to HER that I didn’t know her name, but I felt constantly awful about it the whole time.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          I worked closely with a guy for twenty years, and we were in a huge conference meeting sitting together and trading quips about everyone in the room when I realized that *I couldn’t remember his name*. We weren’t wearing name badges like we usually do, and whenever anyone came up to us they just started talking without using either of our names.
          Biggest brain fart I ever had. Of course, I remembered right after he left the room.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Thank you for weighing in on my somewhat tangential comment, and I hear you. I’m almost 60 years old and, the older I get, the harder it is to remember things. I chose not to address people with ADHD or suchlike, in the interest of brevity. Because I’m borderline ADD myself, I can’t say that would change my stance much, if at all. Remembering names of colleagues, vendors, and/or customers – and their pronunciation – is simply part of being a good corporate citizen. I’ll go so far as to say it’s non-negotiable.

        Maybe I do have a knack for remembering names even in my dotage. I’ve worked in global F500 companies and am accustomed to working with diverse teams and ethnic background. But this ‘knack’ came in part because I wrote names down with pronunciation hints, repeated the person’s name during conversation when I meet them, and through other tips and tricks that worked my memory muscle.

        In my example about my own name, well, people have called me the wrong name repeatedly despite my use of the techniques you and Alison shared. It got old. And I wasn’t kidding, some people really have asked me, ‘Are you sure that’s your name?’ I push(ed) back on these folks because I agree with you that names matter. You call people by the name they want to be called. Where we seem to differ is that I don’t cut a lot of slack for dismissive attittudes like the OP experiences, or for repeated offense by the same person. If I can manage to find a way to do it, I know others can.

        Sure, people have a lapse – Cheryl? Shirley? Sharon? Sherry? Charlotte? – and I don’t get torqued about it the first couple of times. But I’ll keep correcting them, politely, until I feel the need to push back as I outlined. Some windmills are worth tilting at.

      3. No Relation (to Coke)*

        I would 100% prefer to talk to the person who forgets my name every time (and is gracious about not being able to remember), than the person who just always gets my name wrong. The first person is trying, and I can accommodate that gracefully, people have different brains. The second person is disrespectful and/or inattentive…rude.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          Especially when it’s just your name that’s lapsed — if they clearly know who you are and remember everything else about you — then forgiveness.

          I got no patience with people who insist I’m pronouncing my own name incorrectly, or that my pronunciation is pretentious (seriously! the only response to that statement is, whelp, I guess I’m pretentious but that’s still how it’s pronounced)

        2. Maria Lopez*

          I do forget names, but I can tell you all about your family, hobbies and work from our last conversation. I tend to remember people by who they are, while another friend always remembers what people are wearing.

      1. Facepalm*

        I’m a woman with a very traditionally male name (think Stephen or Jacob) given to me by my parents at birth, and I’ve been asked that way more than once. “Are you sure your name’s Stephen? Not Stephanie?” Only ever by older white men. Pretty sure I’ve figured it out after 40 years, thanks a$$holes.

        1. Salsa Your Face*

          Saaaaaaaame. When I was 8 years old, my mom made me cut my hair short for the summer. Everyone I met assumed I was a boy until it grew out, and I’ve never worn my hair short since.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Seriously. My name MUST be a derivative of something else, so I should use my ‘proper’ name. Except it isn’t, and I AM using my proper name!

      3. Tiffany Aching*

        Yeah it’s surprising the number of people in my life who have told me that my name is wrong. Not that they are confused by it, or can’t remember the right version — but that I, who have had this name my whole life, am wrong and they, who have just this minute met me and heard the name for the very first time, are correct.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep. My other half has a fairly common name, but with a slightly unusual spelling (there’s an extra letter where people wouldn’t usually expect one). He’s always being asked if he’s sure that’s how it’s spelled, and on more than one occasion he’s even been told he’s written his name down wrong! Yeah, because after nearly 50 years he doesn’t know how to spell his own name…

    3. Old Cynic*

      There are times I’ve asked people to repeat their names because I can’t decipher what it is. Even sometimes after the repeat. (And my hearing is good!)

    4. Salsa Your Face*

      Some people, though, really are that bad with names. My partner struggles to remember the names of people he’s worked with on a daily basis for 2+ years. He rarely gets my name right on the first try. He rarely gets his *daughter’s* name right on the first try. Sometimes it’s not a matter of effort, it really is just a brain thing. What’s easy for you isn’t easy for everyone, and it’s not always an issue of politeness.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I agree with you; however, I find those folks to be the exception. I don’t respond the way I outlined above I’m working with someone like your partner. As I said upthread, I chose not to address ADHD or other challenges.

    5. MtnLaurel*

      I’ve gotten the “are you sure?” when folks call me by the wrong name. My response, “I’m pretty sure, but I can call my mother to be certain.” That usually shuts them down.

  16. kittymommy*

    #1 – “Additionally, extroverts get social anxiety too.(Will people actually show up? Will they have fun? Will there be enough chairs? If I didn’t invite people, would anybody think to invite me?) They also get burnt out and feel unappreciated. If you’re trying to break into a social hub at work or outside it, it might help everybody leave high school behind to stop looking at the organizers as powerful gatekeepers who have it all figured out, and stop assuming that you have nothing to offer them. When you are invited to things, assume people want you there, enjoy yourself, offer to help if you can, and most of all, notice and appreciate people’s work in planning and hosting. It’s easy to dunk on Mandatory Office Fun, but going out of your way to say “Thank you for putting this together, that was the best sheet cake yet, need a hand cleaning up?” can win you allies on the Party Planning Committee for life.”

    I feel this in my soul! For better or worse I have become the default after-hours planner for co-workers and in my personal life) and while I don’t mind it for the most part, it can be exhausting and stressful. Did I remember to tell everyone? Did I pick a place most everyone will like? Is it close by? What time and date is good for everyone? I would absolutely LOVE for someone to just come up to me and tell me when and where and all I had to do is just show up.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh, yes. I hosted a lot of events for friends and coworkers in my past (married) life and it is super hard. Having not done it in ten years, I am now wondering how I ever managed to do it on the regular!

      Note from me: yes, please *ask first* if the host(ess) needs a hand cleaning up! I’ve had people just start randomly bringing the dirty dishes and leftovers into my kitchen, pile them on top of each other as I was frantically trying to clean them and put them away at the same speed that they were being brought in, then complain to me that there was no more room and what should they do now?! I once said I could not keep up with the stuff coming in and the friend looked hurt and said “I’m just trying to help”…??

    2. Double A*

      Yes I love that the Jennifer recognized the labor and anxiety that comes with making social things happen! I feel like there’s kind of a lot of ragging on extroverts, complaining about having to go out, celebrating when someone cancels plans… and then complaining about being lonely and feeling left out. I’ve even seen the attitude of, “I will never accept invitations, but dammit I still want to be invited to everything!” I get that social anxiety makes it both suck to go out and suck to be left out, but social anxiety can also blunt your empathy towards other people. It can help to take a deep breath and look at it from their perspective.

      It super sucks to plan something and have no one show up; it sucks to be cancelled on at the last minute; making social events happen is work (even if you find that work ultimately rewarding) and it sucks to have the work ignored, taken for granted, or denigrated.

      Also, “be more social in 2020” is one of my goals and I use that liberally as I propose and invite myself to various social activities.

    3. Retired Resident Assistant*

      This paragraph spoke to my soul as well. I am absolutely the event planner in my group of friends (to the point of organizing one or two events a month for the group, as well as smaller meet ups) and I do feel burned out quite often. Every time someone says ‘thank you for organizing everyone’ or tells me how hard it was to meet people before I included them, it fills me up and re-energizes me to keep going. I always try to make everyone feel included, but I definitely can fall into the safety net of ‘who came last time and is invested enough to come again?’ when sending out the invites. Extrovert social anxiety when event planning is so relatable to me, and the friend who asked me how I was feeling at the last social gathering I held, acknowledging that hosts rarely get to enjoy the party as much as guests, has cemented herself in my heart.

      Speaking from a former RA who mentored freshmen residents for years, your workplace can absolutely be just like college/high school in people’s assumptions that the common plans are for everyone. Not everyone is super socially aware of the more reserved of the group and it takes a special person to reach out to those who haven’t spoken up about receiving an explicit invite. Since you are closer to your coworker who is occasionally participating in these events, either ask them what it takes to be invited since you’d like to be included, or just assume you can join in when they are going and get started by showing interest that way. There is nothing wrong with speaking up about wanting an explicit invitation since that is what you (and perhaps some of your other coworkers) need to feel welcome.

  17. Amy Sly*

    LW#1, I’d also stop and think, “Do I really want to be close to these people?”

    I’m in an office where there is definitely a clique. Yeah, it’s isolating that I don’t go out to lunch with them or join in on weekend plans. At the same time though, I have practically nothing in common with them. These aren’t people I would have ever met or befriended on my own. The few times I have tried to reach out, the conversations are awkward and uncomfortable. There’s nothing wrong with thinking of coworkers as acquaintances, not friends! Yes, you likely spend more time with them than with your friends or family, but that doesn’t mean they must be your social network. All you really need from your work relationships is to be on good enough terms to get the job done and disincline them to sabotage you.

    I’d suggest searching for a hobby group to help you get the social interaction you want. Having something to bond over beyond the work you do will help build real friendships.

  18. Lisa*

    3) Oh I am this co-worker. I’ve recently lost a large amount of weight and it is very noticeable to everyone. I get a lot of comments about how great I look and whats my secret, which usually lead to me chatting about my healthier eating habits and daily exercise routines. I don’t ever bring it up unless someone brings it up first though so I guess in that way I am not really imposing myself on someone who would be upset by this topic. My suggestion for these check-ins at meetings us to perhaps suggesting to the meeting organizer that you do a business check-in and stick to work-related things that are exciting or important. Just a thought. People who have achieved a large weight loss are generally thrilled by this. Especially since it often involves complete life style changes and tons of hard work and discipline on their end so it isn’t crazy that someone would bring this topic up excitedly if asked for an update on their personal life, but I can completely see someone who has had issues with their weight or who has suffered form an eating disorder would find this pretty upsetting. I remember when it was good ol 2008 and my husband had lost his job and money was tight… and it was while a close family member was getting married and shopping for a pricy new home. It was super hard for me not to tear up when I heard her talk about her $3k wedding dress or vacation in the Bahamas when I was worried about how I was going to afford food for my kids or enough gas to get to work. It really really sucks. I hope that the OP is able to get some relief by getting the personal updates to stop or at least getting the excited dieter to tone it down.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      Just a note that folks who comment on your weight loss are likely being polite, and unless they ask directly (as in: “I’ve noticed that you’ve lost a lot of weight lately. I’ve been trying, too, and I’d love to hear about what you did that helped you be so successful.”) I’d encourage you to default to “Thank you, I worked hard!”

      1. Lisa*

        They usually ask me whats your secret so I guess I always figured they were actually interested, but maybe not…..

        1. Tina*

          After too many awkward moments, I (spectrum-y) have resignedly defaulted to always assuming that nobody, but nobody, ever actually cares about a single solitary non-work-related thing I have to say, and sometimes not work-related things either.
          So far this assumption has obviously not-worked a grand total of twice.

  19. NJBi*

    Related anecdote to #1: I’m currently in a workplace where everyone on my small team in the open office is about the same age. They have started getting together for more stuff outside of work–games nights, that kind of thing. The thing is, while I like all of them individually, I am so worn out after an full work day of being in the same room as these folks that I positively can’t stand the idea of hanging around work for an extra hour or hour and a half to B E G I N a social event. Because of the way that public transit runs, I’m the first one in the office by a good measure, and it’s not possible for me to leave and come back…………………. which is also what most of the coworkers do because they live within walking distance, so sometimes the gatherings don’t start until 8.

    I wear over the ear headphones pretty much 80% of the time, often with nothing playing or some white noise. My coworkers definitely have caught onto the fact that I am more often than not able to hear what they’re talking about and have opted to ignore it. This includes all of the get-together planning. I know I’m almost certainly invited, they know I know roughly what’s being planned, but if nobody explicitly invites me to each individual thing, we don’t have to have an awkward conversation where I say explicitly that I don’t want to hang out. Meanwhile, I can stick to my quarterly happy-hour-with-the-office and be done with it.

  20. OlympiasEpiriot*

    OP #2, That is exhausting. The advice sounds great and best of luck.

    For everyone who might read this who has trouble saying someone’s name properly, I’ve got a situation where an unusual name that has the exact same spelling gets pronounced differently by each of 2 people. Unfortunately, one of them is an administrative assistant I don’t like (so I don’t want to mispronounce her name and have her think it is related to me not liking her, as much as I try to hide that fact) and the other is A CLIENT whose name — obviously — I also don’t want to mispronounce. Think PHI-lippa versus phi-LIPPA as that’s a similarly unusual name in the US.

    I have “solved” this by writing the syllable emphasis in my Outlook Contact Card for each of these.

  21. Dust Bunny*

    LW3 I *don’t* have a troubled history with food, even, but my mom is now on a diet of sorts for medical reasons and I’m on the verge of asking her for a moratorium on food talk, because every time food is mentioned, seen, advertised, etc., it triggers an accounting of how many calories are in it, how many carbs are in it, the fat and protein content, how many miles she walked today, how her blood sugar is doing, etc. Plus, it’s encouraged both by her health needs and a natural tendency to overplan and control things.

    She’s doing well and I’m glad she’s so careful but, dear god, it’s exhausting, and it’s worse because she’s very quick to complain when other people talk repetitively about their own pet topics!

  22. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    “One thing I always want to tell fellow adults who may have a history of being bullied and left out: Hosting and event planning is a lot of work, and it’s not generally something the Popular Kids(™) we remember from school do as adults specifically to torment each other.”

    I’m so glad Jennifer brought this up. Try not to always expect other people to do all the work of befriending you — and it is work even for socially adept people. The way to be included in events is to invite others to something you plan. Adults have a lot of priorities and if you make it challenging to be your friend — always doing the planning, always picking things you’ll enjoy and participate in — they’ll probably opt not to.

  23. MK*

    What I find baffling about people who comment on other people’s names with any undertone of rudeness is, do they realise they are essentially insulting the other person’s parents? I mean, the overwhelming majority of humans do not choose their own full names; even whether someone uses a shortened version is often influenced by how their family refered to them in their childhoods. [My younger sister was named after our maternal grandmother; our mother, who loved her mother but not the name, shortened it immediately after birth. For the last three+ decades, my sister has had to deal with “But why did you shorten such a lovely name?” comments]. So yes, maybe someone’s pretentious/hippy/uneducated/without taste/whatever parent decided to saddle them with a weird name or nickname or one pronounced or spelled weirdly. What does one hope to acheive by pointing this out?

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      My husband’s mother and grandmother did something similar. All of the kids of “real” names but none have ever gone by them. My MIL gets asked really often about her name because it is unique, unusual for a first name, and first her freaking perfectly. She always responds “Oh my real name is Mary but I’ve never been called anything other than Mimi since birth”. Hell, one of them goes by a nickname of his middle name! I told my husband when we started dating and I found out about this family tradition I am naming our kids what I plan on calling them. He was fine with it since he was sick of explaining all the time (and me getting handed his credit card since his legal first name is traditionally feminine).

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        My husband and his nephew both go by a nickname of their middle names because they’re the fifth and sixth of six generations of eldest sons with the same awful first name, and they both got landed with long and wonky middle names. I think the last one to actually use the first name in question was #2 – the rest have all gone by a middle. (There will be no more awful first name in future generations; we’re not having children and the nephew will not be high-functioning enough to legally consent to anything.)

        Mostly this leads to two things: First, I have to double-take if anyone calls him by his actual first name, because he does use it at work and in formal settings and I’m so not used to it, and second, I am unable to properly middle-name him when he leaves dirty dishes in the dog’s nose range on the living room side table. :P

    2. fposte*

      Yes, it’s not really actionable as an observation, is it? And, as discussed upthread, it’s not news to anybody–it’s the nomenclature equivalent of “Hey, you’re missing an arm!” Uh, yeah, thanks for the helpful alert.

  24. "Like the County in England"*

    OP #2 – I’ve got an unusually spelled name myself (think: O pronounced as an I), and a particular client who knows perfectly well how to pronounce it but thinks it’s funny to mispronounce my name anyways. He’s admitted this. “Oh, I know your name is I, but O is really fun to say.”
    He has a particular colleague who is the subject of much teasing around their office, so we’ve started calling him that colleague’s name whenever he pulls his usual nonsense.
    Dirk: “Hey there, O, how’s it hanging?”
    Me: “Good to see you too, Caleb!”
    He is improving.

    1. "Like the County in England"*

      I should clarify – the teasing of Caleb they engage in is the good-natured “Hey, don’t forget the cheese in the macaroni again!” or “Let me tell you, Caleb LOVES the forklift” type, and he is otherwise beloved and highly valued, so we’re not piling on to a situation that’s already terrible. :)

  25. East of Nowhere South of Lost*

    I worked with a woman who would *always* use a nickname that is common for my proper name, but that I abhor, and no matter how nicely I asked her, she kept doing it. So one day she did it and I used the common nickname for her first name, a lot like how Capt Awkward did, and she immediately got flustered and insisted I stop, i just suggested back that she stop doing it to to me. It was literally like the light clicked on. From that day one she called me by my preferred first name.

  26. Anonymous for this, colleagues read here*

    OP #2, just keep cheerfully correcting them, emphasis on cheerful. Although with repeat offenders, I give you permission to plaster on a Joker grin and use a somewhat more forceful tone.

    One of my colleagues has a short, easy to pronounce, but you could say it wrong if you saw it written name (think, Ito = pronounced EE-to, but someone might say EYE-to). One of the deans always calls them EYE-to. Has been corrected many times over the years, by Ito and by everyone else. So, everyone else started mispronouncing the dean’s very Anglo name (think CharLESS ParKOUUUUUR for Charles Parker). haha, that finally did the trick.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I somehow feel that the person’s name might be Ian. That name is the bane of my existence. I know multiple Ians, some of them insist on being called EE-an, others insist just as strongly on being called EYE-an, and I can never remember which Ian is which.

    2. Maria Lopez*

      You have to look at the Key&Peele Youtube video, Substitute teacher. He plays a teacher from inner city schools who is substituting at a white school, and the way he mangles their names is classic. If I post the URL this comment won’t post, so that’s why I didn’t.

  27. Fikly*

    #1: I feel like many many people would be much happier, or at least much less anxious/stressed, if they realized that 99% of what other people did was not about them.

    1. fposte*

      A big truth right there. It’s an unfortunate irony that the more anxious you get, the less your brain realizes that.

  28. new kid*

    For #1 I agree with the advice and all of the comments saying in most cases you actually are ‘invited’ and no has thought to make that explicit, but I also like that the scripts call for asking for confirmation on that, rather than just jumping to (yet another) assumption.

    In my last org (a small start up) we had a team of like 6 people and had recently hired and were training #7. We had a team meeting to discuss the logistics of an upcoming project and literally everyone was invited except #7, but it was because we wanted her to keep going with her training and thought she wouldn’t have the right context for the discussion yet anyway. Well when the time came for the meeting, she saw us all get up and just followed us into the conference room, then acted really put out when Manager explained what the meeting was and that she wasn’t invited. He clearly felt so awkward and told her she could stay if she thought it would be beneficial, but oof. It was hard to watch for my socially anxious self.

    I tell that story not to say that I think it’s likely OP is being excluded but just that it’s always better to ask than assume! Maybe you are invited but no one told you, maybe you aren’t invited but it’s for a Reason, maybe you aren’t invited bc your coworkers are jerks, but the only way to know for sure is to (casually) ask!

  29. Eillah*

    My dilemma is similar to #2: My name is Hallie (like Halle Berry) but more often than not, people will call me Haley (like Haley Joel Osment). They’ll even do it after I have corrected them multiple times or have just pronounced it correctly. They seem to get standoffish when I correct them (again, and again, and again). Some will even write “Haley” or variations thereof in work emails to me…. where my first name is spelled correctly in the email address they had to select. How do I address this? It’s frustrating being treated like an ass when you correct someone one something they should already know, and something as personal as a name.

    1. cosmicgorilla*

      Eillah, this is interesting to me because I have a cousin who is a Hallie, and I want to read it as Halle Berry, but hers is actually pronounced like Haley!

      The wrong-name-reflected-back technique is great. Use it for repeat offenders. Gentle correction (hey, it’s Hallie) at first, but next time they write Haley, you write back some weird but obvious spelling of their name. Instead of Tom, try Thomm. Myke. Syndi. Carren.

      1. Eillah*

        Oh my god, perhaps she started this trend!!! Kidding, although I’ve never encountered someone who pronounced it Haley (admittedly, I can count the Hallies I’ve met on one hand).

        May I ask where you’re from? I’m from New Jersey/New York… maybe it’s a regional thing?

  30. Arielle*

    I have recently decided that life is too short to continue to silently bite back my frustration at people who manage to spell my first name wrong in the body of their email, despite the fact that my email address is my (correctly spelled) name. It happens ALL THE TIME. I find it deeply disrespectful and dismissive, actually, like I’m not worth the 1.5 seconds it would take to type the additional two letters. I’ve just started correcting people and I don’t care if they find it rude or petty. My name is not Ariel.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      People put an “E” in my husband’s name all the time, especially his extended family. My family get is right though!

      P.S. I love the name when spelled Arielle – just looks so pretty written out

  31. Buttons*

    LW1- I really believe Jennifer’s answer fits in so many circumstances. I think more often than not it isn’t about me and isn’t not about me. I think usually people have good intentions and just aren’t thinking. I do have to make an effort to remind myself not to make things personal. If I am left out of something is it because they were doing it intentionally, was it because it was an oversight, was it because they didn’t have all the information and didn’t know I should be included?
    If you really want to be included in drinks or dinner after work, then speak up, as Jennifer said. “I’ve been wanting to try that place, can I join you?”
    I hope you will update us! Good luck :)

  32. cosmicgorilla*

    This is spelling versus verbal name errors, but….as someone with a name with more than one commonly accepted spellings, and someone who frequently gets the OTHER spelling (JFC people, it’s in my EMAIL SIGNATURE that you just responded to!), I have used the reflect-the-wrong-name back technique. It’s rather effective.

    (and apologies, because I’ve totally gotten Alison’s spelling wrong before, and it’s on the darn website!)

    Blah blah blah
    Regards, Allicyn

    Oh hey Alison, blah blah blah next meeting.
    Thanks, Jennifer

    Hey Giniffer,
    (Jennifer picks up on not so subtle hint right away)

    1. Cheesehead*

      I posted below, but the name I go by is a shortened version of a nickname for another name. The nickname is also in a very popular song (with a middle name) from several decades ago. The middle name in the song also happens to be my legal middle name. Ugh. I got serenaded SO MUCH as a child. So there was a receptionist at a place I used to work that took it a step further…..she thought it was cute and started calling me the longer (not preferred) nickname WITH the middle name. EVERY TIME SHE SAW ME. So I tried that reflection tactic with her to avoid being direct (basically my first job out of college, I was young, she was several decades older. Very nice lady, so I didn’t know how to confront her nicely and stand up for myself and tell her to knock it off. Now, I would be able to, but back then I thought that confrontation would be a BAD THING). So I asked her what her middle name was. Every time she called me by the full song name, I would parrot back her first and middle names. IT DIDN’T WORK! She didn’t take the hint, and I had to keep that up, just hoping she’d get a clue. At some point, I had to wonder if someone else finally clued her in because she eventually said “Do you not like it when I call you FIRSTNAME MIDDLENAME?” I said no, not really and that was the end of it. But man, that was a long few weeks.

    2. Tafadhali*

      I am always baffled at how people manage to do this in email responses, when your name is all over the place! You can check your spelling right there!!

      (That said, I have been struggling so much with someone I email occasionally for work because her email is “Jessica,” her signature is “Jessi,” and she sometimes signs off with “Jess” and so I feel like I’ve made a mistake no matter how I greet her. Hopefully the variation just means that she really doesn’t care.)

      1. cosmicgorilla*

        I struggle with this too…I don’t want to be rude and nickname them, but it IS how they signed off…

      2. alienor*

        I used to work with someone whose email was Patricia, but would sign emails “Trish” and say “Hey it’s Tricia” when calling me on the phone. So confusing! I really liked her, too, so wanted to address her in the best way…if only I could have figured out what it was.

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      Stolen from Crypti-Calli on Twitter:

      *to the tune of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name”*


  33. #3 OP*

    It’s amusing to see multiple commenters wondering why we have personal check-ins at meetings at all! I am usually a “why should we pretend to be friends, we’re coworkers” person, but I do like our current office culture. To add some context: these meetings are a small team (12 people) who are pretty tight-knit. This is due to both our similarities and because our work is social work-adjacent/often stressful.

    Not everyone has to share an update, but people volunteer if they have something fun or a personal accomplishment that’s on their mind. I am a support staffer so I don’t want to spend political capital pushing to change the standing agenda, but because of our close-knit culture I think having the direct conversation suggested here is what I’ll try.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      When I took over management of a technical team at a previous firm I noticed they had a 10 minute per employee ‘personal life update’ bit in the regular team meetings. With 8 employees that’s a lot and the first meeting I ran I questioned it.

      (I’ve got a long history of ED and didn’t want to hear about staff X doing Atkins for instance)

      Turns out former manager had banned any and all non work chat in the office, only place it was allowed was the weekly meeting. So I scrapped that ridiculous rule, removed the personal updates from team meetings and had happier staff.

      Basically, I’m saying trying to keep meetings about work may win you a lot of happiness from others! Especially if there are any restrictions on non work conversations elsewhere?

    2. celebrate vague success*

      If people are encouraged to share when they’ve achieved a “personal accomplishment that’s on their mind” then hitting a major weight loss milestone should be acceptable, and just like any other personal milestone you can set limits on what degree of information is appropriate. Oversharing diet talk is annoying to other people and triggering to some – in the same way that oversharing about any kind of personal business eventually becomes annoying and often becomes offensive. It’s reasonable to set limits without singling out one person’s hard work as arbitrarily ‘unprofessional’ in a conversation about personal achievements.

      Yes = “I hit a big milestone in my weight loss program this week!”
      No = “I’m down to 138 pounds!”

      Yes = “We’ve been hoping for this for a long time – I’m having a baby in October!”
      No = “After 7 rounds of failed IVF and two miscarriages, I’m finally pregnant!”

      Yes = “We bought a new house!”
      No = “We just paid $987,000 for a new house! We had to dip into our retirement savings, but it finally happened.”

      Just have a quick chat with your colleague and let them know that you’d appreciate her keeping things a little vague, so that you can celebrate her accomplishments without causing unintentional harm to others.

  34. Kara*


    Fellow mispronounced name here! I think I’m the opposite though – mine is pronounced Kare-a, not Kahr-a but is FREQUENTLY mispronounced. I get called everything but my name… Cara, Kiara, Karen, Carole, Kira, Kyra, Kerry, and so on. It’s actually such a frequent occurrence that I use my last name (which is also a common first name, and is rarely mispronounced but very often misspelled) when ordering coffee or something just so I don’t have to spell it out or try and figure out what name they actually wrote down on the cup.

    I usually just roll with it, to be honest. Not worth getting stressed over. I just correct them with a quick, “It’s actually Kare-a” and move on with it. Too many other things to be worried about in the world, and I’m sure I’ve mispronounced a name or two (actually, it’s made me much more diligent about asking the pronunciation of other people’s names when I meet them, especially if the first contact was via email and I end up on a call with them – but I do get it wrong sometimes) so I just give them some grace, let them know the right way to say it, and the conversation continues. But really, I feel ya!

    1. Auntie Social*

      I use “Betty” when I’m ordering at a counter. I have a Kara kind of name, and it’s not worth watching the bagel guy struggle with it.

      1. Kara*

        No doubt! I can remember one of the incidents that really prompted me to start using my last name. I had ordered lunch at a deli, and they wrote my name down as Carol (unbeknownst to me). I was waiting for my food and they called out an order for Carol. Well, there actually was a Carol in line waiting for her food as well. Not thinking anything of it, she picks up her food and starts looking through the order. It was – completely – wrong. Which made sense, because it was mine. I watched them trying to figure it out, call out for any other “Carols” and it finally clicked that they meant me. Good thing she checked, or I would have been waiting quite a while for my order. I started using my last name after that.

  35. Elbe*

    The answer to OP #1 was, indeed, perfect.

    Asking tactfully, but directly, if she’s invited is the right move. It would clarify for her if there’s a misunderstanding or if her coworkers are rude. And, if they don’t want to invite her, it would be a good reminder to them that they shouldn’t be regularly discussing plans/events in front of people who aren’t invited.

    The Captain was also spot-on about how hard it is to organize events, too. This is particularly true the larger the group is. I organized large, informal outings for my company where everyone was invited and it was both great and awful. The events were always well attended and people seemed to have a good time, but for each “thank you” I received, I would get 5x as many complains and “helpful suggestions” and “well, xyz isn’t EXACTLY to my liking”.
    There are always things that can go wrong and miscommunications that can happen, especially if there isn’t one official organizer, but more of an informal word-of-mouth invite. If the outings are sizable, it would be wise of the OP to take on some of the planning or info-gathering herself, as opposed to waiting for it to come to her.

  36. Cheesehead*

    Oh, goodness, the name thing! I have a real (legal) name…..and then there’s a nickname for that name that’s relatively common, but actually makes no sense and really isn’t directly derived from the first name at all. But like I said, it’s the standard nickname for the other one. I go by the shortened version of the nickname, and it’s been that was for over 30 years. It’s like Elizabeth and Betty, although that combination makes more sense than mine. In that case, though, I’d go by “Bet”. I sign things as “Bet”. I go by and introduce myself as “Bet”. Social media and email says “Bet”. “Betty” is simply not me….it’s someone else. Yet there are SO many people who insist on calling me “BetTY”. No. LISTEN and READ!!! You will NEVER see any reference to me as BETTY. Why can’t people just freaking listen when you introduce yourself? It’s so infuriating when people that I haven’t seen for a while but who definitely know my name see me again and start calling me “Betty”. Or heck, even people that I’ve JUST been introduced to, as “Bet”, and they say “Hi, Betty, I’m Tom.” I’m always at a loss on how to correct them, because they should know better, so…..awkward. And I don’t want it to go on, where other people start calling me that too!

    I just had a situation with an old coworker, and we had a meeting to plan an event. My husband is also communicating with her, and he refers to me by “Bet”. She keeps writing “Betty”. Don’t know why….when we worked together, I was already “Bet”. We had a face-to-face meeting and I was all set to gently correct her, but she actually called me “Bet” so I thought she’d finally figured it out. But then in email communications, she was back to “Betty”. ARGH!!!

    (I will give a pass to people that new me when I was younger as “Betty”, like my old high school friends and my cousins. Most of my friends have taken the hint anyway, and even for those who haven’t, it doesn’t bug me nearly as much as others because I think my brain somehow remembers them from that time and doesn’t flag it as unusual.)

    1. AJK*

      I switched to going by my middle name when I was fifteen, my rule is that no one gets to call me by my first name unless they knew me before I turned 15.
      One temp job refused to use my middle name as my e-mail address. They insisted it had to be my “legal name,” well, my middle name is *part of* my legal name… their refusal to change it is about 80% of the reason I turned down being hired on permanently when they asked. Another boss told me I was being “confusing” and I should change it to make his life easier. (I did not.)

  37. ElleKay*

    Hello #2! I – by complete coincidence- share a first&last name with a very famous TV character and let me tell you that it is the first thing anyone over 55 mentions when they meet me! This isn’t quite the same but at some point in high school I decided to embrace it. I have a whole thing about how my parents gave me the same name as an incredibly well-known soap opera character but, no, I’m not named after her.
    It drove me nuts for years but I consciously changed my mind about it and now it doesn’t bother me nearly as much, even though I have this conversation once or twice a week.
    There are a few comments above about finding a rhyme or a story about why your name is your name (which, no, isn’t something you should have to do) but I’ve found that adding the story helps people remember it

    In addition I used to have a boss named Andrea who was incredibly specific about her name pronunciation. She’s an Ahn-drea NOT an Ann-drea. And she felt, I suspect, much like you and was *done* with people not knowing this. The problem is that, for her, the defensiveness about her name came out from the first time she met someone. So the very first interaction with clients/donors/anyone was “No. Ahn-drea.” and it felt defensive and combative. I have literally seen this woman correct a presenter, on stage, while receiving a major industry award.
    So, unfortunately, one of the main things I remember about her as a boss is how to pronounce her name, rather than her as a person. And she was a good boss! I’m still in contact and she’s been a reference! But it’s how she approached her name that sticks with people and, unfortunately, that’s a factor that you’re going to need to remember.
    Because, YES, you deserve to have your name pronounced correctly! But you don’t want that to out-weigh everything else people remember about you.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          Right. But I think part of the general consensus here is that while you want to correct people to get your name right, you may want to think twice about bringing the wrath of god down on people right out of the gate. That was my read on this and other stories. But I could certainly be misreading.

      1. Just Another Manic Millie*

        I know a baby named Andrea whose parents say that it is pronounced ahn-DRAY-uh. I don’t know how much of a problem it will cause her later in life. But as for the Andrea who corrected the award presenter, I maintain that it was the responsibility of the award presenter to ask Andrea ahead of time how she pronounced her name. Before I graduated from high school and college, there was someone who went over everyone’s names so that they would be pronounced correctly during the ceremonies. When I was a bridesmaid, I was very happy that I was asked ahead of time how my name was pronounced, so that when I entered the reception hall with a groomsman, our names were pronounced correctly.

        I used to get tired of people mispronouncing my last name, and I would always correct them. But nowadays, I just let it go. Especially because I found out that there are a number of people out there with my uncommon last name who pronounce it differently from the way I pronounce it.

  38. Rebecca Deborah Rachel*

    I’ve commented before that although my name is Rebecca, I periodically am called Deborah or Rachel. I think people just forget and reach for any Old Testament female name. I usually cheerfully correct them and that’s that. Now my family and oldest friends still call me my childhood nickname, but if someone else did that I’d stop that immediately. I also have an unusual last name that I always have to spell for people even though it is spelled exactly the it is pronounced. That drives me crazy.

  39. Allison*

    #2 I just want to give some assurance that a reasonable people won’t be put off or offended if you correct them on your name, as long as you keep it light. I remember being on a date with someone who, to be fair, went by Joseph on social media and I just assumed Joe was acceptable, but he was like “actually I go by Joseph” and that was it.

  40. Cioè*

    Re: #2,

    I study languages a lot, and something that helped me stop being permanently irked by student’s and classmates seemingly willful and unrepentant mispronunciation was realizing that at it’s root, it’s an issue of muscle memory of the tongue. And some people are just worse at it than others.

    It doesn’t excuse it, and obviously your coworkers need to put in the work to retrain their brain and mouth to make the right sound come out, but I wonder if thinking in those terms can help lend a little patience. I bet they’re saying lame/insensitive things in an attempt to “cover” for screwing up.
    Sorry for the annoyance!

      1. Amy Sly*

        I taught for a bit in inner city schools; one was 1/3 white, 1/3 black, 1/3 Hispanic, 3/3 near or below the poverty line. Names were a real challenge, because more common names could have multiple equally likely pronunciations, while names I hadn’t seen before would be subtle variations on a theme shared by multiple students. (e.g. Jennifer, Jemmifer, Jenniper, and Jannifer.)

        On the flip side, I didn’t even bother teaching the students my real last name, just how it was pronounced. They weren’t signing my checks, so it didn’t really matter. “Mrs. Sly” was enough for me to respond to.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        The fact that the name Cara was used in the example made me think of Kara from Supergirl and how Cat Grant persistently pronounced it Kiera. My bf’s ex thought Cat was the only person pronouncing it right – er, no. If Cat’s not pronouncing it the way Kara herself does, she’s getting it wrong.

  41. Ruby314*

    Jennifer’s anecdote about Jenny/Tommy made me think about the way I finally (passive-aggressively) resolved to answer the many men who would call me “sweetie” or “honey” when I was a cashier at a grocery store:
    Me: That’ll be $12.65
    Customer: Here you go, sweetie
    Me: Sure thing, sport!

    1. SarahKay*

      Hey, I’d say that calling them ‘sport’ is pretty kind of you. I tend to go with sweetie-pie or honey-bun for the men.

  42. Asperger Hare*

    OP1, the advice above was great. I used to have this kind of anxiety about coworkers and do they like me and is it obvious I am autistic and etc. etc. Then I realised: while I want people to like me, and am a prolific people-pleaser, I would far prefer to spend an evening at home than out with others. The desire to have people like me was actually far less than the joy of spending an evening on my own. I attend annual work functions, but aside from that I just wish them well with their activities. I know there’s no malice or ill-will; it’s just not something I’m going to enjoy.

    I was able to find a balance that worked.

  43. Oh No She Di'int*

    Questions about names for those with an opinion:

    Most people here seem to prefer their formal names and are offended/annoyed by shortenings (e.g., “Jennifer, not Jenny.” What about the opposite? I have a Rachel on my staff who has been subtly suggesting that I can call her “Rach”. She hasn’t insisted on this, but I do notice that she signs her emails that way. I feel super-awkward calling her “Rach”. It feels chummy to me and I just don’t feel like we’re chums.

    Is that equally offensive?

    1. fposte*

      If she prefers “Rach,” you should call her Rach. If she’s okay with either, you can stick to Rachel. You can ask her if that’s a preference indication or just a signature. Think of it as Jim for James–it’s not chummier, it’s just a preference.

    2. pamplemousse*

      Seems like you should just ask — I’ve noticed you’ve been signing your emails “Rach,” do you prefer to go by that at work?

    3. Anon Here*

      Ok. So is she signing her emails with, “Rach,” but using, “Rachel,” in other places? If she, say, answers the phone or introduces herself to someone new, which one does she use?

      If it’s consistent, call her Rach. If she’s switching it up, ask. “Do you prefer Rachel or Rach? I ask because I’ve seen you use both.”

    4. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      I’m one of those people. Let’s pretend my full name is Jennifer. Family and very close friends get to use Jen and Jenny because a term of endearment makes sense being used by people I consider dear to me. But I find it super irritating if someone I’m not close to calls me Jen or Jenny instead of Jennifer, it makes me feel like they’re trying to be closer to me than I’m comfortable with.

      So on the one hand, I feel that erring on the side of treating someone formally is better than informally, if they prefer informal they may feel like you’re not chummy with them, but if they prefer formal they may feel like you’re disrespecting them and being unprofessional.

      On the other hand, almost no one goes by Rach instead of Rachel, so I would treat it way differently than Jenny/Jennifer or Mike/Michael. I’d find it more understandable if someone who always went by Jenny was annoyed by Jennifer. But a Rachel going by Rach? I feel like it’s unreasonable to be upset about not being called Rach.

  44. Small Biz Escapee*

    My boss at my previous job was very thin and every week, her news was that she had lost more weight. It was incredibly disturbing to watch a woman of a normal, healthy weight become frail, and because she was the owner of the company in particular, it just felt wrong to say anything at all. The “personal good news” concept was hers in the first place. We all just stopped responding with any comment at all, and she eventually stopped talking about it.

  45. InsufficentlySubordinate*

    So, I correct people (I even give them another name that is very common and rhymes as a mnemonic)…and they still pronounce it wrong the next time. I’ve given up correcting after three times. And then someone who pays attention will pronounce it correctly, and the other person will say, Oh why didn’t you correct me? And I say, I did a few times. And then they pronounce it wrong again. And we repeat the cycle. If this was one person, I could cope with correcting every time, but it’s around 60% of people. It’s so frustrating.

  46. coworker annoyances*

    3. I like natural small talk. I dislike artificial small talk on demand and small talk with ulterior motives. As in, after an absence: How are you feeling? Are you ok? How about now? Re: hearing about a diet in that much detail and at length, and during a meeting? Hard pass.

    2. Feeling for you on this one. We have a coworker who decided on their own to give another coworker a diminutive nickname. We also had a someone from another office who constantly was referring to me by the longform of my name, despite my always using the shorter form. I used the advice on here to ask them to stop. My coworker handles the nickname with grace, but both situations appeared pretty disrespectful. I think addressing the situation without getting into motive is great advice.

  47. DeeEm*

    #3: If the meetings are starting with PERSONAL check-ins, then I think it a bit odd to tell the coworker not to check in about her personal diet and weight loss goals when other people are giving other totally personally updates. But I’m one that doesn’t particularly like “personal” check-ins at meetings. I don’t want to have to come up with something I’m grateful for, or give a personal anecdote at work. Alas, I play along politely when it comes up. On the other hand, if she’s excessively talking about it, then yeah, a polite discussion with her privately might help her curb that. Bringing it to her supervisor or HR – eh, I’m on the fence. People talk about their personal lives. HR doesn’t want to get into the business of policing every conversation someone has, unless it falls in the legal parameters of hostile work environment or something along those lines. This wouldn’t really, even if OP#3 has a disability, as it doesn’t really seem to be directed in any way toward anyone with a disability and is just talk about “I lost five pounds” or “I’ve been good on my diet.” But, hopefully, a private conversation will cause the employee to pull back on the talk.

    1. Recovered ED Gal!*

      I think the issue is that we consider dieting and weight loss to be acceptable small talk in the first place, as opposed to something more private and medical. But I agree – I think opening WORK MEETINGS with personal updates is problematic to begin with, because you’re going to have people who have different assumptions for what is too personal and what is not; this is just a recipe for disaster.

  48. Radiant Peach*

    For #3 – would the same advice go for a one coworker who is distressed because another coworker is talking about babies/pregnancy when coworker #1 can’t conceive/has miscarried/etc? Or is it just when coworker #2 is getting too into detail?

    1. Daisy-dog*

      This is such a grey area. All-in-all, at this type of setting, it’s probably best to avoid excessive detail about anything.

      I consider pregnancy to be more life-changing than Fad Diet Plan, so that may be easier to excuse. Plus, that co-worker may have gone through X rounds of IVF or whatever, so that may influence their over-sharing even more – they forget what the previous stage felt like and are celebrating. But it wouldn’t hurt for her manager to ask her to tone it down unless asked in non-meeting settings.

  49. drpuma*

    OP2, I realize “joking but not really” got a bad wrap in the response to #3 but I wonder if it could work for you. When folks strongly push back on the pronunciation of your name, could you say something like “Are you really correcting how I pronounce my own name? Next you’re going to tell me I didn’t really grow up in [city]!” A joke-ish response might point out the facts of what these people are doing without the drama of an explicit confrontation.

  50. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Just remembered an anecdote related to #2. I used to be in a hiking meetup group, and one of the fellow members was a guy I’d gone on a few dates with a few years prior, who’d stayed friends and would occasionally chat with me. At some point, he started telling me about how his other friend in the group had taken a liking, and was trying to date, a woman in the group, Pam. For a while he was giving me updates every week about this friend. “Dave had a great chat with Pam”, “Dave asked Pam out”, and finally “Pam doesn’t want to date Dave and he does not know why.” I’d seen Pam around, but she and I never spoke. A few weeks later I ran into Pam on a hike, we started chatting, I introduced myself and said “and you must be Pam?” and Pam gave me a stern look and said “PAMELA”. And just like that, I suddenly knew at least one of the reasons why she didn’t want to date Dave! (She turned out to be really cool, by the way. Dave missed out.)

  51. Recovered ED Gal!*

    Re: OP#3 – If I were in this position, I would go straight to my boss and ask her to have a 1:1 conversation with your coworker about how dieting and weight loss (especially the sharing of numbers) is highly personal and inappropriate for the workplace. I appreciate the advice given here, but in my experience, this essentially results in “outing” yourself as someone with a history of eating problems/self-image problems/whatever kind of problems that the person you’re talking to will inevitably analyze and read into. Many people – including medical professionals – have damaging assumptions about people with eating problems, and I don’t think you should have to divulge any personal information, or how this is impacting you specifically, to stop this behavior, because it could put your personal/professional reputation at risk. If you feel comfortable doing so, or know your coworker well enough to share, great – but the solution shouldn’t be: “This is upsetting to ME,” it should be: “This is upsetting – and an overshare – period.”

    TLDR: People can be weird AF about eating problems and eating disorders, and you shouldn’t have to divulge anything personal to fix this problem. Ask your boss/HR to help out if you want to preserve your anonymity.

    1. Annie*

      It’s not remotely “inappropriate” for an environment where people are explicitly ordered to share information about their personal lives, and it’s totally inappropriate and abusive to make an HR complaint about it – especially when the LW has been making such rude, bullying comments already.

      1. Recovered ED Gal!*

        “Rude, bullying comments”? Are we reading the same letter? And it’s hardly abusive to go to HR about something that is making your work life uncomfortable and is of a sensitive, personal nature. Though I do agree that telling employees to share info about their personal lives is a total Pandora’s box, and should stop, like, yesterday.

  52. TootsNYC*

    When I try to kindly correct them (“Oh, I actually pronounce it like Cahr-a, not Cair-a”), more often than not people push back. Everything from “Well, all the Caras I know pronounce it the other way” to “That’s weird” and “I wouldn’t spell it that way if I pronounced it like that.”

    This is where I’d say, gently, “It is my name; that’s how I pronounce it. I’m sure you’ll adjust.”

  53. mdv*

    #2 – ARGH, I feel your pain SO MUCH. I have a very unique name: first and middle are “made up” — my mom spelled them phonetically for German and English — while last names are two hyphenated and hard to spell names. So YEAH, at age 45ish, I am more than a little tired of people who don’t bother to listen when I gently correct them.

    For some reason, though, I’ve managed to learn the difference between people who just can’t remember (like my great-aunt who couldn’t remember I stopped using the nickname “Greta” after 1st grade) vs people who are doing it wrong on purpose. And I have to be honest, something about insisting on correct pronunciation seems to BEG for people to say it wrong on purpose because they think it is funny to tease me, calling me “Margarita” over and over (and over and over).

  54. Anon for this*

    As someone who did have a group/clique at an OldJob that spent a lot of time together outside of work, and who’d somehow gotten accepted into the group, invited to all the parties, etc… Jennifer was right on with her advice. Be careful what you wish for. It is time consuming to attend all the events, you sometimes offend people if you don’t attend the events. All kinds of awkward situations arise when it’s an out of work party where booze flows freely and things are said that are not typically said in a work setting, but you are all still coworkers and will all see each other at work on Monday. Then there’s the growing apart, the evolving into different life stages over the years that are not very compatible. One day you are all at a party together as usual and you suddenly realize that you have nothing in common with anyone there, and that it’s a good thing. I spent several years scrubbing my old clique buddies from my social media contacts. There were so many.

    The low point of my life as a work clique member had to be when I hosted a large coworker party at my home, but not large enough that everyone was by default invited. There was a list. A guy who was at the time my best and closest friend in the group, specifically asked that a certain person not be invited. In his own words “your party, your rules, but if you invite him, my family and I aren’t going to come.” The present me would’ve gone, “oh okay, we’ll miss you at the party.” The past me left the person off the invite and swore everyone (including his direct reports) to secrecy, where they couldn’t mention the party in front of him. I bet he found out anyway. Been ten years and I still feel guilty and wishing I could go back and handle it differently. As the weird icing on this oddball cake, a few months later, the friend who’d asked me not to invite the guy, suddenly became good friends with him. I still have a couple of good friends from that job, but overall it was a weird experience and I wish I hadn’t entangled my life with theirs as much as I did.

    With all that said, an after-work happy hour that everyone else is talking about openly is most likely okay to attend – 99% chance that OP is implicitly invited (I would ask first anyway though… people are weird) and attending a happy hour places you under no obligation to become these people’s bff and spend all your evenings and weekends around them.

  55. Lauren*

    LW #2: I have a colleague with a unique name that could have multiple pronunciations (Tavianna, pronounced TAY-vee-aw-na, not Taw-vee-anna or anything else). When people mispronounce her name, she pronounces it correctly back to them – EVERY time. She doesn’t say anything else or otherwise interrupt them. As someone who mispronounced her name a few times when we first met (because I couldn’t remember how she said it, not because I was being a jerk), I found it REALLY helpful to keep hearing her say it. She wasn’t rude about it at all, but she did correct people EVERY single time they said it wrong. It is your name and you have the right to be called by it correctly.

  56. A. Ham*

    I am so feeling Jennifer’s answer to #1, especially the bit towards the end. I am a social, bubbly, extrovert who really enjoys planning outings and parties and I absolutely get social anxiety (especially when i’m NOT the one planning). I have been on both sides of this coin – I have felt bad about being left out, and I have accidentally not included someone (and felt SO terrible when I realized the mistake). Yet, I can’t seem to convince the me that has been left out to think about the me that has left someone out, and know it is most likely an oversight, not a deliberate thing.
    Also (and if I’m not reading too much into the question, this may be relevant to this particular LW) because of the extrovert/social anxiety battle inside of me, for a long time I struggled with communicating with introverts. I have been working on this a lot, because I know this is totally on me, and not on them, and I have gotten much better but it was rough for a while. (Oh my god, she doesn’t want to chat about her weekend first thing on a Monday, she must HAAAATTTEEE me! That’s the only explanation!) So, while it is not at all your fault, when you think they they don’t like you very much, it’s also possible that they are sitting there thinking YOU don’t like THEM.

  57. Tiffany Aching*

    #2, just writing to commiserate on the absolute frustration of having other people tell you you’re saying/writing/pronouncing your own name wrong. Most of the comments here have been about when others can’t/won’t remember or use the right version — but I’m right there with you on how weird it is when people push back on corrections.
    I have a two part first name — think Mary Ann, but less common — and I go by the full thing. I’ve had multiple people INSIST that I’m spelling/punctuating my name wrong. They INSIST that it should be MaryAnn or Mary-Ann, or that Ann is “really” my middle name. No, my birth certificate clearly has Mary Ann in the First Name section, and a whole other name in the Middle Name section. I think I am the expert on my own name, thank you. It’s SO weird and I’m always a little flustered when it happens.
    – Hi, I’m Mary Ann.
    -Hey there, Mary!
    -Oh actually, it’s Mary Ann! So, about that work thing…
    -Well, Ann’s really your middle name, so I’m not wrong.
    -Um. No, I have a separate middle name, it’s Elizabeth. My first name is Mary Ann and…
    -But there’s no hyphen! If there’s no hyphen, then it’s not really a first name, it’s just another middle name.

    Like…where do you even go from there? People aggressively telling you that you’re wrong about your name? Anyway. It doesn’t happen to me very often (mostly I just get people calling me Mary until the end of time no matter how much I correct them), and it sounds like it happens to you frequently, so you have my sympathy and empathy.

      1. Tiffany Aching*

        I think it’s something like that, they think I don’t know my “real” name. Or that there is some list of Legitimate Actual Names and my parents committed some egregious error when they were filling out my birth certificate.

  58. This one here*

    My name is Shyra. Pronounced like it’s spelled, spelled like it’s pronounced. And yet, and yet. . .

    1. fposte*

      But two immediate pronunciations that map onto other names come to mind for that (I know a Shira pronounced she-ra and a Kyra pronounced kee-ra so I’d lean toward she-ra, but your description makes me think you mean Shy-ra). It may be an unambiguous spelling to you, but it’s not to everybody.

  59. Roscoe*

    #1 May be my favorite answer ever on this site.

    A few things that stuck out. First, do you even want to hang out with these people/do what they are doing. I think so often people get angry about not being invited, but they really don’t want to go anyway. Its just THEY want to be the ones to turn people down. Its like people who get mad after a date when the other person says they don’t want to see them again, but they wanted to turn them down first. If you are an introvert or on the spectrum, would you want to do all that social stuff?

    Also, everything isn’t about you. That is a pretty broad statement, but its usually true. People don’t usually pay as much attention to you as you are thinking. People aren’t making plans “against” you, they are making plans. Sometimes people are rude, but more often I think its just being thoughtless or lazy.

    I feel like this is an answer that will be linked back quite often in the future.

  60. CM*

    Suggestion for OP#2 — I use this for racist/sexist microaggressions and it works for me! Act like the person is on your side and give them an “I know, right?” response. Pretend the thing they just said was prefaced with, “Wouldn’t it be messed up if someone told you…”

    In your case, when somebody says, “That’s not how you pronounce it” or some variation of that, you could say, “I know, it’s so frustrating when people tell me I don’t know how to pronounce my own name! It’s CAH-ra, it’s not that hard.” (You could also throw in a “Thanks for understanding” if that phrase works for you, or “I’m glad you get it,” or something like that.)

    1. Anon Here*

      Honestly, I think the name thing can be a racist/xenophonic micro-aggression. Not always, of course. But that’s worth noting as we talk about it.

  61. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

    I feel for you, OP 2. Most people skip my name a go straight for every other freakin’ name (I’m “Kristin”, but most people go straight to Christine, Christina, Christian, Kristy, Krista, Kris…). And don’t even get me started on spelling. Ugg.

    This is why when my husband and I had our daughter, I made sure we spelled her name the most common way. If it changes, at least I can say I tried. :P

  62. yala*

    Honestly, sometimes it IS meanness, not just laziness. (eg: there are three of us plus our supervisor in our department. I’m pretty sure they’re aware that they’re excluding me from their lunches et al.) In which case, yeah, you might not actually want to spend time with them, but it does rankle, especially if it includes your supervisor and means that they get perks like more leeway with breaktimes etc.

    But even when it is, there’s not much you can do except keep your head down.

    1. Roscoe*

      I think that is a bit different. Once the supervisor is included, that changes things IMO. Also doing lunches during the day is different than something like a happy hour. I think if all but one person is going out for lunch, they should probably invite them. If it is after work time, I don’t know if I think the same thing.

  63. the blogger of blaviken*

    #1 – Ooof. I would legit never consider that I shouldn’t talk about having outside of work drinks or dinner with coworkers around other coworkers for fear of making someone feel excluded. I wouldn’t go on on about it, but if someone said “how was your night/weekend?” I wouldn’t think twice about saying “great! I went out for happy hour with coworkers Bey and Jay on Friday and had a blast.”

    I also wouldn’t think it was presumptuous if someone was like “Sounds fun! Next time can I come?”

    Work is a slog, and I think it’s natural for people to carve out pockets of personal time to just be with people who they enjoy/make them happy.

    If it’s a “work-sponsored” happy hour that drops your name from the invite list, or if a boss is taking people out to lunch and not including you, then yeah, that’s a bad environment. But if it’s just adults…making their way into the world and forming closer bonds with some people than others, then they’re not doing it AT you, they’re just being human…forming connections and relationships.

    1. Roscoe*

      Agreed. I feel like there is line for when it is/isn’t ok.

      I absolutely think its ok if a small handful of people get drinks after work on Friday, and its mentioned another time. I think its very different if say 9 out of 10 people are invited to someones house for a party Saturday to just talk about it in front of the person that you know isn’t invited.

      Sometimes though, people are better friends than others, or a couple of people just don’t get along. We shouldn’t need to pretend thats not the case. I don’t necessarily buy into the “less than half or everyone” thing, but if there is one person clearly not invited, some discretion should happen. Hell, even in my personal life I do this. I did a white elephant around christmas for some friends. Due to the size and nature, I wanted to limit how many people were invited. I definitely told some people to not mention it (if possible) around others because I would feel bad if they found out, even though what I did was totally logical

    2. Oh So Anon*

      And a big part of this is that folks who exclude themselves by proxy don’t rise to the top of our priority lists in terms of forming closer connections. That person who never comes out for coffee with us is missing an important opportunity for people to get to know each other better, and over time they simply won’t become someone whose company you’re likely to seek out.

    3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      In your example it might depend if the person asking is from a totally different department, if your office/immediate department is made of up Bey, Jay, you, and the person asking, or if your office is made up of Bey, Jay, you, the person asking, and 27 other people.

    4. mcr-red*

      I’m late to reading this, but we had a situation like this when I first started working at this job. I work in a larger company broken up into several departments, then smaller “sections” let’s say. Like there’s the Teapot Department, the Coffeepot Department, and the Sodabottle Department, and the Teapot Department breaks down into the Teapot Makers, Teapot Painters, Teapot Pourers, etc. In the Teapot Department there was a variety of ages, genders, races, etc. but somehow all of the Teapot Painters were 4 people in their early 20s and 1 person in their late 30s. The 4 people in their early 20s starting going out to dinner together a lot, and others in the Teapot Department saw they were excluding the person in their late 30s and basically they were told to stop going out to dinner with each other.

  64. Not Me*

    #1 Alison and Jennifer’s answers are great, but sometimes your co-worker is just a jerk! Several years ago a bunch of us were standing around a common area of our office when “Jane” started talking about a party at her house. She was asking everyone there about availability, what they would like to eat, etc. Assuming it was a general invitation to everyone, I said something like “That sounds like fun.” She got this horrified look on her face and made it clear that I was only person in the room not invited. From then on she still went around the office issuing invitations to get-togethers and specifically telling me it wouldn’t be something I would be interested in. Oh well. She’s now my manager and we still don’t like each other, but we manage to work together.

  65. DarkIrishQueen*

    Jennifer (see, I pay attention) – thank you so much for your response to LW#1. I am the mom of a young man on the spectrum and your answer is pure perfection. Social skills do not come easily or intuitively to him; he doesn’t really know how to make friends on his own. Luckily, in high school, a nice young lady pretty much informed him they were friends and pulled him into her small group of really great kids. Now in his second semester of college, he doesn’t really have friends at school because he doesn’t know how one does that. And most NT people don’t realize that people on the spectrum may be looking for a direct invitation to be friends. Educating everyone is key and your response did it beautifully! Thank you.

  66. Engineer*

    Omg….the name game. I used to get SO irritated when people pronounced my name wrong. You used my name in the example, only I get people calling me Car-a rather than Care-a. My name rhymes with Tara and Sara, not sure why people go to Car-a first. Anywho, I got less annoyed by people pronouncing my name wrong because why get my panties in a bunch for something that is their problem, and simply started correcting them, “oh, it’s Care-a, because I care about you/company/whatever.” I do have a co-worker I interact with infrequently, and he still pronounces my name wrong. Next time he does it, I think I’ll just say “hey man, I’ve been working here for X years, my name is Care-a.” Maybe shaming him a little will work.

    1. londonedit*

      Well, in the UK, Tara, Cara and Sara also rhyme, but the usual pronunciation is ‘Car-a’! You do sometimes get a Sara who pronounces it like Sarah (Sare-a) but most of the time it’s ‘Sahr-a’, same with Tahr-a and Cahr-a. I’ve never met a Cara who pronounces it Care-a.

  67. Cinnamon*

    Throwing my name story into the ring, I met a woman from another department (that I don’t interact with) in the bathroom during our Xmas party who asked my name and immediately followed it up with “You MEAN ‘her Pronunciation’, my granddaughter has the same name!” I wished her a good night and luckily never saw her again but did tell most of my department how someone apparently thought I must have been too drunk to remember how to say my own name.

  68. EngineerMom*

    My given name is easily shortened, and I go by one of the nicknames (think Liz instead of Elizabeth).

    I had one middle-aged white guy at an old job who kept calling me by the diminutive (Lizzy instead of Liz), and actually verbally refused to call me Liz because “you seem more like a Lizzy!” I so wish I’d responded “You seem more like a Tommy” or something similar!

  69. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Nobody, but NOBODY at work cares what diet you are on unless you work at Weight Watchers. Stop talking about it, everyone.

  70. AnotherCahra*

    LW#2: I FEEL YOUR PAIN! I too have a name pronounced in the less popular Cahr-a, not Cair-a vein. I love the scripts above and think you should use them!
    I will throw out there that I made the decision to go by a nickname at work, however. (You should not HAVE to do this.) I found it really hard to hear people to mispronounce my name all the time, so I started going by an easy-to-pronounce nickname (“Car”, to continue the analogy) that I already liked.

  71. Kayla Salad*

    My name is Kayla and one of the security guards in my building calls me Kale. I’ve said my name for him many times, but he still says it the same way.

  72. Misty*

    I had a group of coworkers who all hung out once a month on the weekend. We were all in the same department. They always talked about it in front of me and sometimes even told me the details of what happened at their last gathering. So after about four months, I said “That sounds really fun, I would love to come.” when they were talking about it in front of me again. They just got really quiet and then one woman made a ‘yikes’ face at one of the other women so then I excused myself.

  73. Karyn*

    Ohhhh, the name thing. I cringe.

    My sister goes by Kimmy. She has, from the day she was born, basically. She’ll allow people to call her Kimberly if they really insist, because that is, in fact, her name, but Kim is something she cannot abide. Her band director in high school INSISTED on calling her Kim (and even wrote it that way in programs!). It made her viscerally angry.

    I had a teacher in high school who thought that for some reason, since my name is spelled differently than most other women with my name, it was short for Katherine. He called me Katherine for two years. By the end of the second year, I stopped responding to him. When he finally got mad that I was ignoring him, my smart-assed 10th-grader self said, “Well, you weren’t calling me by name, so I didn’t think you were talking to me.” And no, I did not get detention over this.

  74. FactoryTour*

    For question #2… I met someone whose name (I don’t remember the spelling but I remember the pronounciation!) was Karin, pronounced CAR-Inn. She introduced herself to me, and everyone, as Karin, like Car Insurance. It was so interesting and clever that it stuck and I never forgot. A clever opening like that can put people at ease and makes your name memorable.

  75. Anon Here*

    #1 – I can’t fully agree with the advice on this one. Jennifer and Allison have a point. But, in my experience, if it feels like people are excluding you, they usually are. However, there is a silver lining. Usually, any person or people who snub you would not be fun to be friends with. You’re usually dodging a bullet. I would make peace with being left out and appreciate getting to have more separation between work and the rest of life than these people have. Give your after work life an upgrade, keep seeking more fulfillment, and don’t let these people bother you.

  76. Wait,what?*

    “but it only took being called “Tommy” once for a middle-aged cisgender guy to be reminded that names are important and it matters how we use them especially in professional settings.”

    I realize that this blog is generally left of center; I’m not but I visit daily because of different strokes for different folks. This statement from Jennifer is not acceptable. The person she is referring to is either a knucklehead or not independent of being “middle-aged” or “cisgender” or a “guy”. If her comment had been in reference to a gay transvestite calling her the wrong name would that have been ok? What does his gender or sexual orientation have to do with anything? Please stop with this nonsense.

    1. Allonge*

      Being a middle-aged cisgender guy (and someone’s boss) means that he was statistically a lot likelier to be able to use default settings in life than not. That he is supported by society in being obnoxious. That he is a lot less likely to be ignored than anyone not in that category. He is privileged. And by ignoring someone else’s name (!), it shows that he uses that privilege for bad reasons.

      1. Wait,what?*

        Hogwash. First, although not explicitly stated, by raising the specter of “privilege” you are assuming the person in question is white. You have no idea what the person’s background is. He could have been shuttled around from one foster home to the next and managed, by sheer will, to move up the corporate ladder, and coincidentally has difficulty remembering names. Or he could just naturally be a flaming #^*@*%. My point was this: if she meant that the individual was a knucklehead, she should have just said so; his physical description and sexual orientation is irrelevant. Would you be okay saying that statistically gay men are more sensitive so they can’t have management jobs because they are more likely to cry like a baby if a competitor is mean to them on the phone? This is esentially what you are advocating. Again I would say a person’s race or sexual orientation or whether you think life is unfair to you have no place in the analysis.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          “by raising the specter of “privilege” “…

          Ok that’s enough internet for me for today. *facepalm*

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Because, being a middle-aged cisgender guy, it is a safe bet that last time this guy was called “Tommy” by someone other than his wife or parents or maybe siblings, was in high school. He belonged to the one category that automatically gets respect just for how they look. As such, he had never been on the receiving end of being called Tommy against his will, until one day he was. Obviously, he was not a “knucklehead” because his reaction was to admit his mistake and stop calling his subordinate “Jenny”. How is that statement “unacceptable”? Apparently things could’ve gone the other way if it were you, huh?

  77. CM*

    #2 — From the question and reading the comments here, I am sincerely shocked at how often people argue with you when you tell them how to pronounce your names. That sucks. :(

  78. Portia McMahon*


    I feel your pain. If you (understandably) don’t want to disclose your personal medical history or have colleagues presume that you’ve had an eating disorder, it may be easier to say that you’ve had a loved one who struggled. Both of my siblings have/had eating disorders, and my brother died as a result, so I have a lot of second-hand trauma around food. I’ve become hyper-aware of all the societal crap surrounding food and dieting, and I am pretty forthright with people when I’m able. At the very least, I need to be able to nope out when the topic comes up. I agree with Jennifer and Alison that addressing this directly and seriously with your coworker is the first step, but you can do so without revealing your own past if you prefer.

  79. Allonge*

    I see no problem with calling someone who insists that they know better than me what my name is basically any name under the sun. Sure, Albert/Albertina. It illustrates well what the problem is, in a way that apparently they understand.

    Of course, don’t do it preemptively, but if they insist, after, say, 2-3 gentle corrections? Go ahead.

    Having a name is a human right. Others don’t get to randomly rename you.

  80. Crate, not Carte.*

    I work with clients that seem to have all kinds of interesting pronunciations and spellings of both somewhat common names as well as some pretty unusual names so my system is to write their name, spelled correctly on the front of their case file but then include the phonetic spelling of how the name is actually pronounced.

    Then I also put that blurb in the header of their case notes as well and I review this pronunciation prior to their arrivals so I can minimize my messing up their names.

    My maiden name was super common name with the second letter being r… but people would always seem to swap it to be the third letter which completely changed the pronunciation. (Like Crate and Carte) This really bothered me growing up so I try to do what I can to prevent being a repeat offender myself. Know better, do better as they say.

  81. Bizhiki*

    As someone who has a real problem remembering names, one thing I would add to help is NOT repeating the incorrect pronunciation. If someone tells me “it’s Carolyn, not Caroline” my brain has now heard them say Caroline, and will inappropriately latch on to that. I pick up on correct names so much faster if someone is only telling me how to get it right, not how to avoid saying it wrong.

  82. Awkward Birb*

    I was mispronouncing my own middle name for 20 years. My mother decided to give us all Welsh middle names due to ancestry on my dad’s side. Mine was Ceri, and mum taught me it was Seri, like Cerise. Turns out that Welsh has no soft C, and it would have been Kerry. I legally changed it to Ceridwen a few years after I found out, partly due to sheer embarrassment.

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