The Importance of Names

There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things. – Phil Karlton

In the context of tech, people often think of names as things for variables, functions and methods.

There’s another aspect to names that is even more important to get right, but thankfully a lot easier. Using peoples names correctly. Your friends names, your colleagues names, and names of people you’ve just met.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes with peoples names. I’m learning from them.

Death by a thousand cuts

When your name is often mispronounced, or mispelt, it can feel like death by a thousand cuts. Some people get used to it, but some don’t. You can’t control that. You can make sure you put extra care into getting other peoples names right.

What if I haven’t met them yet?

If you’re not sure how to pronounce a name you’ve only read, do something about it. A quick google search normally helps. If you’re struggling with a name, others might have as well. I often like to look up names I don’t know. Make sure to double check across a few resources so you don’t get misled. Then, double check with the person when you meet them! In my experience, people appreciate it.

Introduce yourself, ask people their name

I’ve found many people are reluctant to introduce themselves and find out people’s name. Instead, it’s more comfortable to remain nameless for all eternity. You may see these people all the time! It may feel awkward at first, but most people are very happy to be asked their name. I like to ask people their names and introduce myself. It’s so much easier to speak to people in future when you know their name.

Use their name!

I’m terrible at remembering names, especially when first meeting people. To overcome it, I try to use their name as early and often as possible. There’s a large margin between friendly and uncomfortable. You’lll probably be ok. People appreciate it, and it helps you remember. Win-win!