Friday 22 January 2010

First names or second?


    One of the other things Tommy Weir talked about was the need to be sensitive to status issues. That in the Middle East he allows his bags to be carried by someone for example, so as not to be seen as inferring that he’s unworthy to have his bags carried for him.  And I also thought it was interesting that he was referred to in the agenda as simple Tommy Weir, whereas in the UAE, I’ve only ever come across him addressed as Doctor Tommy.

This got me thinking further, particularly when I wanted to refer to him again later in my post – ‘Tommy suggested’?  ‘Weir suggested’?  ‘Dr TW’?

I quite often struggle with this one in my posts.  And I’ve noticed that I’ve tended towards first names for people that I’ve met (face to face or by 2.0), and second names for who I’ve not.  But then there’s a whole heap of other factors that influence this too.  Even after my meeting with him, Thomas Stewart still seems like a Stewart than a Thomas because he’s a bit older than me, and has published more, and more successful, books.

In general, I prefer first names (I still feel uncomfortable when recalling my American boss who called me Ingham to my face) but then this may just be me.

Do you have any guidance here?  Which do you prefer?  Do you care?  Let me know if so.



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  1. Jon,
    I know that I should comment on your deeper & more complex posts, but this issue is a little close to my heart given the traction I got on my post last week on whether using exclamation points in tweets is unprofessional....

    When it comes to setting your own decision rule/style guideline, after you have considered culture and the individual person's preference, the only other big consideration is to use the same rule regardless of the person's

    Personally, it irks me when my collagues are addressed as Dr. Whoever, and I am addressed by my first name, by people with the same level of acquaintance with both of us.

    One default I do have, though, is that for folks who I think (still) need to establish their professional status, (e.g., newly minted PhDs, very young faculty members) I go with the more formal address to use my own status (such as it is) to set the tone for how these folks should be seen (e.g, as experts, or whatever).
    my $.02.

  2. Thanks CV, I'm pleased to have a comment from you anytime!

    I seem to be tracking your posts on my blog - with this and both of our posts on hierarchies and social networks.

    Totally unintentionally and unknowingly I do assure you! - I do pay a lot of attention to your blog, but I'm generally about a week behind.


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