Ever have trouble pronouncing a client’s name? Want to make sure you’re respectful of cultural differences? We live in an increasingly global-minded society, so read on for resources and ideas for working with people across cultures.

It’s one thing when a customer service rep mispronounces your name, but have you ever thought about how it would feel if someone you interact with regularly can’t pronounce your name?

A new campaign called My Name My Identity promotes respect for students’ diverse names and backgrounds. On the campaign website it says, “did you know that pronouncing students’ name correctly is a signal that their names and identities are honored?” The campaign aims to build a culture of respect in school communities.

You can take a pledge to respect students’ names here.

a group of peopleThis shouldn’t just apply to schools, though. You can show your clients (and colleagues!) your respect by learning to pronounce their names correctly.

How can you learn correct pronunciation? You can ask the student or client how to pronounce their name and write down the name phonetically. You can then record yourself pronouncing their name on your phone or tablet to listen to later. You could see if their name is on PronounceNames.com and see the phonetic pronunciation as well as listen to an audio clip of the name.

Now that you can pronounce their name, how else can you prepare to interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds?

AOTA’s Cultural Competency Tool Kit is a good place to start. Developed by the Multicultural, Diversity, and Inclusion (MDI) Network, the toolkits have definitions, stats, suggestions for interacting with clients, and ideas for further reading.

This OT Practice article describes how to use international collaborations as cross-cultural learning experiences for students (AOTA member login required). The article includes five tips for educators who want to implement a similar program.

An article in Harvard Business Review suggests focusing on similarities when working with people from different cultures. Instead of trying to alter your behavior, focus on things you have in common—maybe a hobby, a shared love for a sport, or the fact that you both use Skype or Facetime to connect with family. Similarities will help you create connections and build relationships. Read more.

What are your favorite tools or resources for respecting cultural differences? Tell us about it in the comments.

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