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My name is Thomas. People often call me Tom, as that is a standard nickname for Thomas. However, I have always gone by my full name.

I don't identify with the name Tom. When it is used, I have to consciously remind myself that this name is referring to me and not someone else. It's not something that upsets me, but it's distracting. I know they are acting in good faith. It comes across as someone trying to sound friendly, but it actually emphasizes how little they know me.

How can I gently indicate to people that I prefer my full name? I don't want to offend them (e.g. by seeming too formal) and it's not a big enough deal to me to really worry about.

This issue arises in many contexts -- people I meet at a social event, my accountant, my manager at work, in conversations, in emails, etc.

(On the opposite side, there are questions on this site for someone who prefers a nickname: How do I get someone to call me by the name I prefer? details another party refusing to use a preferred nickname even after the topic has been explicitly discussed. And How to introduce your nickname to new people? applies to initial introductions only.)

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    Possible duplicate of How do I get someone to call me by the name I prefer? - the question there is: "Is there a polite but firm way to express that I want to be called by a specific name and not a variation of it?", which seems to be what you are also asking. – Em C Apr 21 '18 at 19:49
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    @EmC While the title of that question is broad enough to apply to my situation, the details of the question are significantly different, and I don't think the answers apply here. In particular, that details a more explicit/confrontational situation, where the topic of nickname versus full name has already been explicitly raised and the other party has refused to use the preferred name despite being told. In my situation, the topic has not been raised at all. The other situation requires a more forceful response than mine. Also, in that situation the role of full name and nickname are reversed. – Not Tom Apr 21 '18 at 20:49
  • OK, I think it would help to clarify those differences in your question, then. I don't really see how full name vs. nickname makes a difference, which is why I suggested dupe - either way it's still "preferred name" vs. "common alternative". (I have an often-nicknamed name as well.) – Em C Apr 21 '18 at 20:56
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    I think the biggest difference between this and the linked questions is the "direction" of the preferred name: Shortening a name (i.e. 'Tom' instead of 'Thomas') or using a nickname naturally implies wanting a friendlier, more casual and closer relationship. Explicitly asking them to not do that, especially after they've already (well-meaningly) started doing so, can easily come off as enforcing increased formality, thus distance, which I think is exactly what you don't want; it becomes an extra uphill that the dupes don't really cover. – goldPseudo Apr 21 '18 at 21:08
  • @goldPseudo Yes, that is also an issue I should emphasize. I don't want it to be taken as a desire for formality. Even my wife and parents call me Thomas. – Not Tom Apr 21 '18 at 21:32
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People usually shorten a person's name as a way to be friendly. So there's no reason why you shouldn't keep it friendly too. You can say something short and simple like:

I prefer Thomas.

Don't make it long, don't make it sound like it's a big issue. Polite people should accept your preference, and there's nothing for them to feel uncomfortable about.

If people persist once you've expressed your preference, that's a different story entirely. Then you can stress your original statement some more, you can expand on it, like gnasher729 suggests.

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You are perfectly entitled to being called by the name that you want to be called by. People might get it wrong sometimes, but no reasonable person would be offended if you say "Please call me Thomas, not Tom. I very much prefer being called by my full name".

If this offends anyone, then this is entirely their problem, and I would say that they are very unreasonable. That person is rare and best avoided.

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I would go close to the answer of Galastel, but modify it a little, since as far as I get it you do not want to tell it to new friends, but to people who already called you Tom for a while.

Next time they use "Tom", if you think the situation is good, go with something like:

Did I ever tell you, that I prefer Thomas over Tom? It just feels more natural to me.

Or deliberatly ignore a sentence where someone uses Tom, and then tell them it was due to you not refering to yourself as Tom in your mind.

But I fear that unless you really escalate the issue (which I would not), it will take quite some time and many reminders until people will adapt.

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I have this problem a lot and I have learned that "I prefer Sophie" makes it sound like a preference, whereas "I don't like 'Soph', please call me Sophie" is more effective, because it blanketly states that Soph is not merely something that I don't prefer, but something that actively I don't like.

Whenever someone calls me Soph, I say, "Soph-ie" to correct them and I know it's a bit awkward and makes me seem pedantic but it at least stops people from saying it.

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I have personal experience of this, and although I like the answers so far and they all meet the "gentle" approach you asked for, you may still find that people persist in calling you "Tom" even after you express that you do not like it. Using shortened names becomes a deeply ingrained habit for many.

Incredibly though, I have found some people actually think that insisting on your correct name is petty! Seriously, this is my lifelong experience with my own name. I am called Daryl, which isn't a very common name in the UK; however the similarly sounding name "Darren" was popular among the same generation as me, and lots of people mistakenly call me this. I correct them every single time and while I do get some apologies I have also received these reactions:

  • "Its practically the same"
  • "Is that really worth making a fuss about?"
  • "I'm only out by one letter"

So while I completely agree with the already suggested "I prefer Thomas", I really think you are going to need a backup plan for those that don't take you seriously.

You goal is to be "gentle" so you need to avoid any aggressive or sarcastic tones. I'll be honest and say that my own personal method for dealing with this could come over a little passive-aggressive if executed badly. You must be completely sincere about it.

I will usually correct people on my name once, to give them the benefit of the doubt. When I do, I just politely use the "I prefer...." method. Beyond that, I will not acknowledge anybody incorrectly addressing me.

If someone approaches me in person using the wrong name, I ask:

"Sorry, who are you looking for?"

If someone telephones my personal number asking for me by the wrong name I say:

"Sorry there is nobody here by that name".

And if somebody emails me, addressing me incorrectly (although they always manage to get my email address correct), I ignore the email. Later when they contact me asking why I haven't responded, I say:

"I didn't see an email addressed to me - I thought you'd just blind copied me in by mistake".

Like I said - if executed aggressively this can come across wrong (I've made the mistake myself) but I like to think I have perfected it and it sends the strong message that unless they use your correct name you will not interact.

  • You warn of executing your method agressively. Can you maybe explain a bit how to execute it non-aggressively? – Kaspar Scherrer Apr 25 '18 at 9:29
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Just say it like it is, but in a cheerful manner:

It is Thomas, actually. Tom is someone else.

No preference, no I don't like. No apology either, because they're not doing you a favor by calling you by your true name, the name you identify with. Keep it lighthearted and there should be no discomfort.

If, for some unfathomable reason, and after some repeated corrections from you, they persist, start calling them 'Bob':

Bob? It is Thomas. Tom is someone else.

But my name isn't Bob!

Right you are Bob, my name isn't Tom either.

Substitute Bob for some other short and snappy name when they actually go by the name of Bob.

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Just say "I am called Thomas not Tom like Thomas the tank engine and not Tom like the cat. Never could get over that association"

Making something memorable is always helpful, because most people easily forget names, so a mental image often helps.

Turning it into a joke about names, often removes the issue of being rude or impolite, as laughter relaxes us and helps us open up to new ideas.

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