Collaboration starts with how you say their name. 

September 2022, Sawsan Khuri. How often have you been unsure about the correct way to pronounce someone’s name? What have you done about it? 

What’s in a name?
A history, a heritage, a family connection, the world, an identity a personality the beginning and the present.

I’ve got used to being the last to be passed the baton to introduce myself in an online group. Why are people so worried about asking? Truth is I am quite happy for people to ask me how to say my name, and for them to get it wrong a couple or three times before they eventually get it right.

Our associate Gulsen Guler and I gave a presentation at the Say My Name conference hosted by Warwick University, and some months ago I gave an interactive seminar at the University of Exeter’s Decolonizing Research Festival titled ‘Decolonising Research Culture Starts with How You Say their Name’. The premise of both presentations is that with every good intention to collaborate across ethnicities and cultures, unless you take the trouble of pronouncing someone’s name correctly there will always be a bit of distance between you. This is true in research, in business and in every professional and personal context.

Two participants took their learning from my seminar and wrote a children’s book! Even better, they acknowledged me at the beginning of the book and used my name for one of the characters! Thrilled, humbled, amazed and grateful. You can find that book at this link.

It only takes a few minutes of your discomfort to learn how to say someone’s name correctly. If I mispronounce your name please correct me. It matters that we ask, it matters that we try. Who knows, you might inspire someone to write a book!