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Annie’s Mailbox: Pretend you don’t hear nickname

Dear Annie: I am really frustrated and would like some advice. I have a double first name (“Jean-Marie”) with no middle name or initial. It’s a bit unusual, but not terribly so, and it’s easy to pronounce.

I always identify myself with my entire name, but for some reason, people insist on shortening it. My full first name is on my nameplate at work, and I use it for all correspondence. Yet many people insist on using only “Jean,” informing me that the full name is “not a real name.”

I don’t get it. When a co-worker asked others to call her “Susan” instead of “Sue,” there was no objection, and everyone respected her preference. But not mine. I’ve tried many polite approaches, but can’t seem to get the point across. When people ask, “Do you mind if I call you Jean?” I smile and reply, “Actually, it’s Jean-Marie.” The usual response is, “That’s OK. I’ll just call you Jean.” Frankly, I find this dismissive and disrespectful, and I am fed up. Do you have any suggestions? – The Whole Package in D.C.

Dear D.C.: You are entitled to be called what you prefer, although people tend to shorten everyone’s name unless taught to do otherwise. So be more assertive. The first time you are addressed as “Jean,” reply, “Sorry, but I prefer Jean-Marie.” After that, if someone insists on calling you by a nickname, pretend you do not hear them. It will take time, and you should always be polite and friendly, but don’t give in.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@ comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.


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