Pro-Tip: First name


There’s a fine line when using a person’s first name. In some cases, it makes the recipient uncomfortable and may make you come across as condescending.

This post from the New York Times is from 1988, but don’t let the year make you think it isn’t relevant. The author writes this overuse of first names makes him bristle. “I resist people I don’t know (and on the phone have never met) addressing me by my given name. It makes me uncomfortable and robs me of the right of choosing to call someone a valued friend. This forced friendliness is most often found in dealing with sales-people. When a total stranger calls me by my first name, my usual reply is, ”Do we know each other?”’

It seems this practice is called repeat signifying, which according to this page is a common sales tactic. “Repeat signifying (or repeat naming) has become the bloodsport of telemarketers, as well as others who one would not expect to be in the business of intimidation. It consists of ‘addressing’ someone by name, mid-conversation. Repeatedly. One would presume this is to initiate the conversation, but what about the repetition? The frequent repetition demonstrates the offensive intent of the tactic.” You can read more about this here.

The extra catch to this is in social media when usually an organization or business decides to show they’ve done their research on you by using your first name in a tweet. Not only is this usually a waste of  characters, but it comes across as patronizing and overly familiar.

Bottom line, don’t over use this tactic regardless of your profession.

Here’s a prime example of when using someone’s first name in social media just comes across as condescending and patronizing.

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USAirways was already tweeting directly to me, making it completely unnecessary to use my first name at the end of the sentence. This went on for several more tweets becoming incessantly rude.

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