“What’s your name?”
“I’m sorry. What is it?”
“I’m sorry. Can you say that one more time? I want to make sure I pronounce it correctly.”
With a smile, I repeated, “Muh-nee-sha.” Much slower this time.
The older lady who sat next to me asked these questions immediately after we made an eye contact. I personally don’t think my name is difficult to pronounce. It surely is difficult to remember, however, simply because it’s not a common name in the US and most certainly not in Dubuque, Iowa.
It’s very common for me to have to repeat my name for people with whom I have limited interactions. It’s also very common for people to refer to me as “Hey.” Name tags are my best friends!
So do I experience this because my name is not common? Or is it that some people whom I encounter just don’t have a strong memory? Or do people not pay attention when I mention my name? Or are people simply ignorant?
I don’t know. And I believe it is okay to not know. When I don’t know, I choose to assume good intent. Since it is my choice to do this, I am at more peace than if I were to assume poor or bad intent. Assuming good intent is not easy because sometimes one’s ignorance is not clearly visible or stated. How I interpret what I hear or see may not always correlate with the other person’s intent.
In my interaction with this lady, I did not have to make an assumption. She clearly stated her intent—to make sure that she pronounced my name correctly—which was the reason I smiled and made an intentional effort to repeat my name slowly. Clearly stating intent can help to avoid negative assumptions by people with whom we interact. Likewise, assuming others’ good intent can put us at ease and help us to avoid negative assumptions about other people.
Dubuque is a place where many people like myself may experience similar situations. I have sensed curiosity and good intent behind questions many people ask me. It seems to be an interesting way to make me feel at home—not only because I look different, sound different and have a unique name, but also because I am new to this community. This is the good intent I assume about this community and people who live here and that has helped me to be at peace more often than not.