What is in a name? Are they important? Or just a way for someone to get our attention? Do they define us – tell us who or what we are? Or are names just merely a way for us to separate ourselves from the crowd?

To me, names are critically important. In all relationships, addressing someone the proper way is the first step in establishing credibility. Misspelling a name or referring to someone by the wrong gender (gasp!) is an offense worthy of seppuku.

OK maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch; it was for effect. But misspelling a name is much more than a simple typo ~ it’s an insult.

So why then, do people constantly misspell my name? It’s really not that hard and as a nice little cheat, it’s spelled out right there in my signature line. Yet 2 or 3 times a day, my name is misspelled. And we aren’t dealing with stupid, uneducated people here. These are successful professionals with advanced degrees – really smart folks. Yet for some reason, this little detail isn’t one that seems important. And I know if they are spelling my name incorrectly, they are doing it to others as well.

In fact, there is a particular chap I used to work with who actually made me feel quite good about myself because he not only misspelled my name, but completely changed my gender (Brenda ~ awesome huh?). And the funny thing is that I’ve known this guy for over two years. We see each other at least once a week. I think he knows I’m a guy. What does that say about a person? If he can’t get the name of the person he is addressing correctly, what other important details is he missing? What does that say about his work? Or how much he values personal relationships?

After I finish blaming my parents for giving me such a clearly difficult name, my second reaction is to consider him an idiot. I know that seems harsh, but come on! It’ s such a simple social rule. At this point, you might have guessed this is a pet peeve of mine.

So why am I ranting about this? The wise man (or woman) learns from the fool’s mistakes. In business – as with all relationships – it is the little things that can make the biggest difference. Take a few moments to ensure you are spelling someone’s name correctly – don’t assume. This quick double-check is worth its weight in gold. Spelling a name correctly is expected. Spelling a name wrong can tank even the best of communications.

Let me know what you think.