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Dear Person,

My friends have gotten into the habit of calling me by a nickname, which would be wonderful if they had asked first, but otherwise I’m okay with it. The problem comes when they introduce me to people using that nickname, leading those people to think that it’s my real name and so they use it too. So now I have a dozen people all calling me by a nickname and I can’t help but flinch inwardly when they use it. I want them to call me by my actual name but I don’t know how to tell them that and I don’t know how to broach the subject of not introducing me with it to my friends either. To be quite honest, I’d prefer a few of my friends to stop calling me by it too but I don’t know how to tell them to stop without making them feel bad about it. I’m also worried that bringing it up at all will be disregarded or made fun of because to them it’s just a name and doesn’t have any meaning while to me it means a whole frakking lot. Is there any way to fix this?

There is a way to fix this. There is no way to do it without risking making your friends feel bad.

But right now, YOU feel bad. Because having someone consistently mess up or diminish your name is dehumanizing.

And how your friends feel about misnaming you is firmly under the heading of Their Shit To Deal With On Their Own Time. Embarrassed? Sad you didn’t correct them before? Justified and wanting to argue that what they do is ok? Whatever they feel, it is not your problem, and it will pass soon.

This is important, and it’s important that you give yourself permission to speak up about it!

So, the way to do this is to wait until one of them uses the nickname, and say “Hey, that reminds me. I’d prefer to go by (Actual Name) from now on, thanks.” And when they introduce you to someone new, hold out your hand and say “Actually, my name is (Real Name). (Nickname) is just a nickname that I’ve been trying to get out from under.”

If they ask why, or make a big deal about how you didn’t say anything before, they are derailing. Don’t offer any explanation. Explanation implies that this is up for negotiation. “Whatever, don’t worry about the past, just, in the future, call me (Actual Name) and everything will be cool. Thank you.”

This offers an interesting and useful test for new people that you meet. Cool new people, the kind you want in your life, will immediately switch to your actual name and make a conscious effort to use it. Douche-y new people, the kind you don’t want in your life, will see your name as a vulnerable spot and start poking it by using the nickname.

With your old friends, give it a little bit of time to sink in – habits die hard – but if people consistently misname you, switch to a boundary enforcement strategy of one correction + leaving (or asking other person to leave) conversation if things don’t improve.

#471 and 2 below the jump.

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