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January 18, 2006 7:32 PM   Subscribe

If someone who knows your name greets you by not using your name, is that rude and/or disrespectful?

Example: Co-worker come in. S/he walks down aisle at cube farm. Says "Hi Biff, Hi Muffy." To me: "Good morning." Am I being too sensitive? I tend to use folks first names if I know them. So I'd greet you by saying "Good morning, [your name here]. Are they saying 'Hey, you are not really registering on my radar screen."
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total)
i deal with people like that all the time at work. i think it's rude and dismissive.
posted by brandz at 7:36 PM on January 18, 2006

who knows. they could have a crush on you. they could hate you. they could be dismissive either on purpose or accidentally. they could have forgotten your name. they could have a lisp and your name triggers it. chatfilter blah.
posted by kcm at 7:39 PM on January 18, 2006

I vote for not offensive, not rude or disrespectful, but only because I do that often myself. I am sometimes paranoid that I'll get someone's name wrong, even if I really know his/her name.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 7:40 PM on January 18, 2006

Unless it's combined with other rude and/or disrespectful behavior (snotty remarks, dismissive eye-rolls, contemptuous gestures, etc.), I wouldn't worry about it. If it really bothers you, you could turn it into a joke at your own expense in some way, some silly little, "What, you forgot my name, tee hee?" thing to bring it out in the open, but most likely it's nothing.
posted by Gator at 7:42 PM on January 18, 2006

I wouldn't necessarily say "chatfilter", I think there's an issue here. I would not be sensitive about it, when I know people really well I'm more apt to go "What's going on?" or "Hey, how's it going!" -- I usually only use someone's first name if I haven't seen them in a long time. Of course I usually have small talk aftewards so there's always a follow up. If someone thinks "Hey how are you?" "Good" "Did you go to [insert previously mentioned conversation topic] this weekend?" as rude just because I didn't use their first name can go screw off.
posted by geoff. at 7:46 PM on January 18, 2006

I'm with Uncle and Gator, based on personal experience. I am very forgetful of names, and am often distracted and inadvertently screw up social niceties without meaning to.

Remember Napoleon's dictum: "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."
posted by mojohand at 7:47 PM on January 18, 2006

This usually means they forgot your name. I do it all the time.
posted by puke & cry at 7:52 PM on January 18, 2006

I too have a phobia of screwing up the name of someone I know well, so I'll instinctively do this. I'm getting better at it, though.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:06 PM on January 18, 2006

You're being way too sensitive.
posted by Questioner at 8:12 PM on January 18, 2006

I agree with those who say it could just be forgetfulness. I am terrible at remembering names, and even when I'm pretty sure I remember a name correctly, I often won't say it, just in case I'm wrong. As long as the person is otherwise pleasant to you, I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by blogrrrl at 8:15 PM on January 18, 2006

Is there any basis besides this for thinking the person is being rude or dismissive? Is this person rude or dismissive to you in any other way? I suspect the answer to this question and the answer to your original question will be the same.
posted by Hildago at 8:21 PM on January 18, 2006

I might do this even if I know your name perfectly well. If I go into the office, I don't want to say "Good morning, $foo" a million times in a row -- I'd feel like a robot.

So I'd say something like "Hey, Kara. 'Morning. What's up, Jay? How are you?" -- each to different people. I didn't say the name of half the people, but I don't feel any differently about them.

Now, if the greeter is effusive about greeting other people, and just tosses an unenthusiastic "Hi" over his/her shoulder towards you, you can feel slighted. I can't really tell if this is what's happening or not.

Mere lack of a name in this context? It never occurred to me that anyone was even aware of that. I hope nobody at my job feels this way.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:22 PM on January 18, 2006

I have two coworkers whose names I know, but I always have to think for a moment to sort out whether the guy I'm talking to or about is (say) Daniel or David. I totally know the correct name, it's just that my brain sort of "catches" on the two names beginning with the same letter for some reason and it takes a second to sort it out.

Anyway, it could be something like that. I wouldn't take offense.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:35 PM on January 18, 2006

Yeah, I'll say "Hey. . . Morning . . .What's up, Doug?" to three completely distinct people on the way to my cube. Actually, now that I think about it, I'll say something like "Morning" or "Hey" to someone who is actually looking my way (that is, I know they can see me because I'm right in front of their face and they are looking at me). I'm more likely to use your name if you are NOT facing me (say, working on your computer) and I want to say good morning to you, because I want to make sure you know I'm saying good morning to YOU, and I can't make eye contact. Also I use the name when speaking over a cube to someone whom I know is there, but I can't see.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:41 PM on January 18, 2006

Maybe they forgot your name or, even more likely, they think they know your name, but they aren't entirely sure and they don't want to look foolish or make you feel overlooked.
posted by acoutu at 8:58 PM on January 18, 2006

You're not being too sensitive, IMO. However, as has been pointed out, there are various reasons that they may not name you: shyness (they have a crush); self-consciousness (they're intimidated in some way); tongue-tied ("Anna" pops into mind instead of "Anonymous" and their mind stutters); or whatever.

I had a sort-of boss who did the same thing until he started lobbying for a promotion, then he was best buds with everyone. Why? Dunno. My assumption was that he's kind of quirky and only acknowledges by name the people he needs at that time, but who really knows? He's not a complete jerk, so maybe it's just a quirk.

Just to experiment a bit, change up how you act around him and see how it affects things. For instance, just slightly more than normal, deliberately smalltalk him, "hey Joe, where exactly are you going with that gun in your hand?" or "Hi, Moe -- what's the rumpus?" or "Morning, Fred. How's that cat of yours doing?" If that doesn't help, just give him the "morning Steve" with a very tiny emphasis on the name. Or, heck, do the same but use the wrong name and de-emphasize it down to a mumble. Or use a name almost like his, like this: "Morning, jeeve." (Try to avoid using real nasty names.)
posted by mumeishi at 9:05 PM on January 18, 2006

Mm, that's a little delicate of you. And what Hildago said.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 9:11 PM on January 18, 2006

What Medieval Maven said: if I say "good morning" to someone who's not looking at me, I use their name to disambiguate. But if I'm looking at someone, and he's looking back at me. I figure he knows I'm talking to him. In which case, using his name would feel fake and "salesman-like" to me.
posted by orthogonality at 9:17 PM on January 18, 2006

I only ever use peoples names to get their attention. I didn't even know my best friends name for the first three months I knew her. I wouldn't worry about it too much.
posted by JackarypQQ at 9:59 PM on January 18, 2006

Like many others, I generally don't use names when greeting people, 'cause I'd be embarrassed to mess up the name of someone I know well. It's happened to me before, so now I just avoid using names, especially in on-the-fly greetings. I feel like a lot of people judge me for not using their name in greeting, though, which infuriates me. Certain people seem to make a point of using my name in greetings, perhaps because my avoidance of using names has led them to believe I've forgotten their names.

Typical greetings from me: "Hey there!" "Hey, how's it goin'?" "Hey, what's up?"

Also, I find that I don't use people's names very much when I see or talk to them on a frequent basis. It seems too stilted to use names in that case. Though I do appreciate it when my boyfriend uses my name, 'cause that makes me feel better about the name and its attachment to me. (I've long thought my name wasn't particularly feminine or attractive, so I do take pleasure in hearing my name spoken by my boyfriend.)

But eh. If they seem to make a point of not using your name when they use everyone else's name, perhaps there's a problem. But I wouldn't assume they're rude if they don't use your name otherwise—they could just find it easier and more casual to greet without names.
posted by limeonaire at 10:13 PM on January 18, 2006

Ditto to everything limeonaire said.

(And I copied-and-pasted the name there, just in case I screwed it up!)
posted by occhiblu at 10:55 PM on January 18, 2006

You're allowed to take it as rude or disrespectful if you want to, but just realize that you might just be succumbing to the fundamental attribution error.

Also, are you honestly that scared that you had to ask this question anonymously? (My perfect example of the fundamental attribution error.)
posted by gramcracker at 11:16 PM on January 18, 2006

My memory for names is crappy and I get them wrong just often enough to rarely use a name in a greeting unless I'm absolutely sure.

Meanwhile, I can probably remember every technical discussion I've had with someone even if I don't have their name down.

The best way I've found for remembering names is an office floor plan. If you have something like this, perhaps you could suggest it be updated and recirculated, thus giving the person a fighting chance of finding out your name without confirming that they've forgotten it.
posted by krisjohn at 12:31 AM on January 19, 2006

The exact example you provided says exactly the opposite. "Hi" to everyone else, with name, but a "good morning" to you. Sounds more intimate. Could be you are just lower on the pecking order. Could equally mean you are more a part of this person's inner circle.
posted by Goofyy at 1:51 AM on January 19, 2006

I'd say the person can't remember your name, but you're both too close now to ask.

Simple solution - wear a nametag one day, and pretend you just got back from some conference or whatever. See if they reply with "hiya ... Bob, where did you go?"
posted by badlydubbedboy at 2:47 AM on January 19, 2006

Relax and worry about other things. Let this one go.
posted by anthill at 4:33 AM on January 19, 2006

I'm a "hey there" person. The reason I do that is that I know I know the persons name. They know I know their name however at the time I'm wandering the hallways trying to solve a tough problem. For whatever reason when I'm in that mode names don't recall as quickly I'd like. It gets worse when I'm stressed.
posted by substrate at 5:19 AM on January 19, 2006

Ahh, bless...

I wish I could somehow explain how much of a non-issue this is for someone from Finland. I know it doesn't help the current situation and that cultures behave differently when it comes to human interaction, but I can't help but be amused.

You'll be hard pressed to find someone using their wifes name when greeting them, much less a co-worker... But then again we abhor social interaction and remembering people's names is not required.

It's taken me a good three years to get used to it, living in the UK. Always used to think it was a TV-thing where they repeat each others names in conversation so that the audience knows who's who.


And in answer to your question, yeah, you're being too sensitive.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:41 AM on January 19, 2006

A lot of people here (and slimepuppy, I'm looking at you in particular, since you're being so fucking smug about it) seem to be ignoring a vital feature of the question: the coworker is using everybody else's name, but not the poster's. This is not about "waah, I want everybody to use my precious name when they talk to me," it's about a glaring difference in treatment. It may be that there's a perfectly normal explanation (has a hard time remembering/saying that particular name), but saying "people don't need to remember other people's names" is irrelevant and condescending.
posted by languagehat at 5:48 AM on January 19, 2006

I guess my question would be, does this person actually use everyone else's name except this person, or is that just the poster's perspective?

I guess a test might be to see whether or not "Buffy" and "Muffy" are making eye contact with this person -- because if they're not and the OP is, there is a chance that this guy is an eye-contact person -- so essentially you're making it seem more prominent by turning around to look at this guy all the time, so (if it were me) of course your name isn't used. He's looking right at you.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:10 AM on January 19, 2006

a glaring difference in treatment

look, unless anonymous is the only minority (religious, ethnic, sexual, whatever) in the group (in this case, maybe it's discrimination) he or she should clearly try to worry about other issues. he or she is being too sensitive.

and yeah, I think slimepuppy's right -- I too bet that anonymous is American, languagehat. so sue me.
posted by matteo at 7:03 AM on January 19, 2006

I think this person is a "nickname" person.

It's not out of malice. Remember the copier guy from SNL (Rob Schnider or however you spell his name.)
"Bob, Bobby, Bobbo, Robert, Roberto, Robby, Robby the Robot" (etc.).

They possibly feel it's "their thing" to have nicknames for people. I worked with a physical therapist for awhile who did just this - and it worked really well with many, many patients, in forming a 'friendly' bond between he and the patient. They felt less like he was a stranger, which made his job easier.

The person, has no idea, that it's grating to you. I used to work with someone, that if you mispronounced or mispelled her last name, you were an asshole to her.

First, life is too short. Forgive this person. Unless, they're using it as a way to be derogatory...they may not percieve it as such...like calling a heavy person "tubby."

Something like "Hey, Bob, I'd rather you didn't use that nickname for me - it's the same name as the priest would use before he sexually abused me." Yeah. Or a lighter version of this. Or suggest that a customer (or someone important) in another department felt it was rude. Something like "Wow, bob, I don't know what you did when you were talking to HR, but the person over there seemed really pissed. Maybe it was the way you constantly nickname people."

Do this with others around and you'll shame this person. Do this in private, and if they're a decent person it'll be enough. You can always do it again in public if the private request isn't respected.
posted by filmgeek at 7:09 AM on January 19, 2006

Ok, let's brake this serious issue down then to things that aren't so horrendously "irrelevant and condescending". I'll try not to sound so smug about your feelings of social inadequacy.

A few quantifying points:
Does "Co-worker" equal peer? I have plenty of people who are co-workers but are higher/lower in the corporate hierarchy to me. If this person feels like he is higher/lower in the hierarchy, he might not feel comfortable calling you by your first name. And not wanting to resort to calling you Sir/Ms, they chose the (in my fucking smug mind) neutral "Good morning".

Which brings me to another point. Did they say "hi" to all the other people and specifically "good morning" to you. And tones of voice/inflection should tell you a lot more than actually what was said.

How well do you know them/they know you?
There is no history here. I know a few people in the office by name, without ever having spoken to them. They're popular and talk to people in my vicinity, but for whatever reason, we've never "met". In a group of people, they would greet the people they know (possibly by name) and say "hi" to me without singleing me out. I don't go out of my way to (re)introduce myself.
I don't greet the security guards by name anymore than they do me. Yet lots of people I work with know them and vice versa.

If they don't know your name, would you want them to say that to your face? This becomes, as has been mentioned, increasingly difficult if you know each other by sight and have had any exchanges in the past.

Maybe he really doesn't like you.
Maybe he's in love with you.
Maybe he's afraid of you.
Maybe he's respects/is in awe of you.
Maybe they slept with your signficant other and don't want you to suspect anything and therefore are trying to be polite, but y'know, not too polite 'cause that might give them away, oh my god now you think they hate you and you just KNOW...

The situation is not quite as black and white as languagehat makes it out to be. There's too many nuances in human interaction to be explained with a few (vague) sentences to bring up a justified theory to their ultimate motivations. Hence my amusement at the lengths people go to give themselves sleepless nights.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:22 AM on January 19, 2006

I too bet that anonymous is American, languagehat. so sue me

Yes, I imagine so. So what? How is that relevant?

The situation is not quite as black and white as languagehat makes it out to be.

Where on earth do you get that I'm making it out to be black and white? I know no more than you do about the details, and I agree that there are all sorts of possible explanations. My point is that whether the poster is "being too sensitive" is irrelevant, and so is someone's "amusement at the lengths people go to give themselves sleepless nights." The poster is asking a question, and you are not being helpful. I think filmgeek, on the other hand, is.
posted by languagehat at 7:51 AM on January 19, 2006

Follow badlydubbedboy's suggestion and put on a name tag, but with a different name. Make it subtle, not ridiculous, and have an excuse.
You'll soon find out if they have forgotten yours.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:55 AM on January 19, 2006

Languagehat, as one of the questions asked was "am I being too sensitive?" I really don't see it as irrelevant.

With the data on hand, I believe that there is no glaring difference in treatment so I told him that he was being too sensitive. In my mind this is answering his question.

You disagree. But I can't see your reply being very helpful, either. Partially because there is no solution, only differences in opinion.

I apologise for voicing my own.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:19 AM on January 19, 2006

I don't think a lot of people analyze things like this so much. Heck, I probably never use someone's name when greeting them, I really have no idea.
If I were to analyze, when just reading the dialogue I can imagine Biff and Muffy were not directly looking at the greeter (hence saying a name was appropriate) to let them know the greeter was talking to them. Whereas you perhaps were looking directly at them, you knew who they were saying good morning to, why would they need to say your name? Doing so would be weird imo, but of course I am no expert on social ettiquette.
If anything this has alarmed me that some people care about this, because I had no idea! I guess I will start saying people's names instead of my standard "Yo"!
posted by wolfkult at 10:18 AM on January 19, 2006

Languagehat, as one of the questions asked was "am I being too sensitive?" I really don't see it as irrelevant.

You got me fair and square. I'll climb down off that horse now.
posted by languagehat at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2006

If, for the slight reason she is not using your name because of malice or disinterest, what does it matter? If Bob from accounting doesn't like me, maybe there is something wrong with Bob. But, as mentioned above, there are a hundred other reasons why she might not use your name. A lot of people use the 'name' method based on Dale Carnegies 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'. She might just be kissing a**. I think the next time this happens, for comedic and psychological kicks, greet her with the wrong name or a ridiculous nickname and see what happens.
posted by jasondigitized at 11:37 AM on January 19, 2006

I agree with other posters that it's most likely a situation of "forgot/unsure of your name".
posted by Radio7 at 2:39 PM on January 19, 2006

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