You’re at a networking event when a colleague introduces you at a round-table. “Shelley Smith here is amazing,” he says, going on to describe that project you led last month. Everyone at the table looks at you and smiles with polite acceptance, while you stand ready to make that powerful first impression that catches their attention and interest. There’s just one problem—your name is Kelly.
You raise your notepad to hide your flushed cheeks. Should you speak up or let the mistake slide? If you don’t speak up now, your tablemates will call you Shelley, and they will introduce you as Shelley to neighboring tables, and so on and so on until your corporate cadre becomes a faction of fallacy. But before you run to the courthouse to rebrand your professional persona, you could politely put in for a correction, because yes, there is a graceful way to correct someone who calls you the wrong name. And it’s all about your delivery.
When you must correct someone, keep it light! Your tone of voice is key here, because you will not come across well if you sound like a drill sergeant or a muckety-muck. It helps to prepare a witty go-to about how to pronounce your name, which makes it clear your name begins with a K, not an S. For instance, my Mom says, “My name is Winnelle, like Chanel.” And I say, “My name is Kay, like the alphabet,” as people often think my name is Kate. I also say, “It’s actually Kay Hunter—that’s OK, it happens quite often,” or, “I know, it’s a bit of a tongue twister!” Keeping it light takes the pressure off, and the right line can make a nice icebreaker.
There’s an even easier solution for handshake introductions. When you’re introduced as Shelley, simply shake the newcomer’s hand while clearly repeating your full name: “Hi! Kelly Smith. Nice to meet you.” That will send a discreet message to both the old and new acquaintances.
And is it too late for those people you didn’t correct the first time, like the neighbor who has called you Callie for two years? You need to be a bit craftier, but it can be done! Try telling a story about yourself in the third-person: “…and my sister said, Kelly, you’re always so busy!”
Finally, as with all social dilemmas, it’s key to know which battles to fight. It’s important to correct your name for a table of professional peers, but what about Mark from Finance, whose one-off email addressed you as Kayla? The choice is yours, but by sticking to a light delivery, you can politely correct those mistaken monikers without making your name mud!
Do you have an etiquette question you’d like answered in a future eZine? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org!