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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Show weird names some love

Over the years, I have often been frustrated, annoyed, and downright embarrassed with my name.  "Vahagn" is a difficult name to pronounce for nearly everyone I have met in a variety of settings.  Even fellow Armenians have had difficulty pronouncing my name.  Individuals from other cultures have an even harder time with it and I often have to correct them a few times before they get it right.  But, even after they get it right initially, they sometimes mess it up yet again if they have to pronounce it again at a later time.  As a result of such experiences, I often use alternate names such as "Victor" or "David" (or my personal favorite, Dante) when I am speaking to people over the phone or giving my name at restaurants.  I had also developed some bitterness against my mother for giving me this name and making my social interactions somewhat difficult.

BUT, all this is in the past and I have finally learned to love my name for one very simple reason: it's memorable.  In the past, I had never realized the importance of being remembered because I wasn't actively looking for work or attempting to network.  I would LIKE to think that people remember me because I come off as intelligent and charismatic but let's face it, I can't deny the fact that a lot of times people have remembered me because they have struggled with my name.  This phenomena is actually related to a previous post I made about eliciting an emotional response (such as surprise or confusion or mental struggling) from your audience as a method for being persuasive and having your ideas be memorable.

Consider the perspective of the people you meet when you have a difficult name.  You are clearly breaking a pattern when you give your name to a person who is used to "easy" and more common names such as John, Brian, Kate, David, and so on.  By breaking a pattern, you are introducing an unexpected element into their day and as a result, you are creating a memorable experience.  I could certainly be reading too deeply into this but I've often had people remember me simply because they struggled with my name or we had a humorous exchange where I had to correct them several times when they pronounced my name incorrectly.  Not only did I break a pattern but I also elicited laughter, which is an additional emotional response.

Here are examples of some comments people have made when I contacted them after my initial interaction: "Oh yes! I remember you now, I had trouble with your name!", "I apologize for messing up your name," and "Yes, I remember meeting you. As I recall, I was having difficulties pronouncing your name."  These people actually admitted the reason for remembering me.  I imagine that others might have remembered me for similar reasons as well but never admitted it.

Until very recently, I had never realized the obvious: my name isn't a hindrance and it shouldn't be a source of frustration, it's a blessing in disguise.

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