There are situations in which you don’t know whether you should address someone by their first or last name. But is it an option to address them by their full name?
Most people don’t think that it is rude to call someone by their full name. But it is better to err on the side of caution if you aren’t sure how to address them. It is especially true when you are addressing them in a professional setting.
To find out whether it is okay to call someone by their full name, we surveyed 105 people in the US. Our survey indicates only about 17% of people feel addressing someone by their full name is rude.
Apart from a few exceptions, it is therefore generally not a problem, but it is still advisable to use either only the first name or only the last name – depending on the situation.
Family and Friends
You will rarely need to call family or friends by their full names. However, you may choose to do so if you are introducing them to a business contact. It all depends on the situation and what is taking place.
When in doubt, share their full name with the other party.
Once the introduction is made, then the person you introduced can decide if they want others to call them by that name or something else.
What to Say:
“This is my wife, Kim Cross. Kim, this is my boss Eric Johnson.”
“I would like you to meet my best friend, Jody Harrison. She has done the fabulous artwork for my writing that you comment on so much.”
Business Contact or Function
When you start a new job, meet potential clients, or meet business contacts, addressing them properly is essential. You don’t want to make a poor first impression. Calling them by their full name is a good place to start.
If you are too informal, they may not take you seriously. Getting off on the right foot is important for the relationship to grow.
In the business world, you may run into several people with the same first name. It is important to get their last name too.
This will help you keep track of who is who, and not mix them up when you need information or you submit details. It would be embarrassing to send information to the wrong person in your business contacts because you didn’t keep their last names straight!
What to Say:
“John Mitchell, thank you for coming today! I know you have a business schedule while you are in town.”
“I appreciate the chance to talk to you about the proposal Christine Smith. Thank you for listening to it and we welcome your feedback on it.”
“Nice to meet you Joseph Kinkaid from marketing! I am sure we will have plenty to talk about more in the future with our joint venture!”
Students and instructors vary in age, education is no longer something everyone does right out of high school. It may seem silly at first to address a professor or instructor by their full name. It may be odd if they happen to be younger than you too!
Their full name is a good starting point, and they will let you know if they would like to be addressed differently.
Today, many educators want everyone to feel comfortable and interact. They aren’t just at the front of the room giving a lecture. Many programs are also online, offering flexibility and convenience. Such methods help ensure everyone can find a way to reach their educational goals. It doesn’t matter if they also have to work or follow through with other responsibilities while they learn!
There may be class discussions in person and online where you have to address other class members. Such interactions are often part of a grade, and you should always call someone by their full name unless they ask you not to.
What to Say:
“Welcome to the class, Kerrie Feldman. I see we are going to be partners on this project. Can you let me know the best times for us to communicate so we can work on it? I have attached my schedule below.”
“Denise Craig, I agree with your statement posted here, I couldn’t have said it better! Thank you for your insight.”
“Mike Miller thank you for explaining that to me. I was struggling with the concept but feel like I have a better grasp on it now.”
Do you feel it is Rude?
A small percentage of people do find it to be rude when someone calls them by their full name. If you are one of them, don’t let it get under your skin.
Remember, the other party is doing what they feel is right to address you.
Kindly convey to them what you would like to be called and they will do so!
What to Say:
“You don’t have to be formal, we are all friends here. It is fine to use my first name only.”
“There is no need to address me by my full name. I would rather you didn’t.”
“I appreciate your good manners, but you can just call me by my name when we talk.”
If you have Offended Someone
Don’t be upset if you did offend someone when you called them by their full name. You shouldn’t be embarrassed either; you simply didn’t know how to address them.
Take a moment to clear the air and then move forward. Keep it simple and to the point.
What to Say:
“My apologies, I certainly didn’t mean to offend you. Thanks for letting me know how you prefer to be addressed.”
“It can be hard to know how to address everyone; I keep it formal until I know otherwise.”
“Glad we don’t have to call each other by our full names. It can be uncomfortable but I didn’t want to be too informal either.”
Follow their Lead
If you aren’t sure how to best address someone politely, ask. It isn’t considered rude by most if you call someone by their full name.
Still, you should follow their lead.
If they ask you to call them something different or ask you not to be so formal, you have a green light from them to stop using their full name when you address them.
What to Say:
“Thank you for that information, I will call you Frank from now on.”
“I appreciate that, and I will stop calling you professor.”
“Cyndi it is, glad we can be informal. You can call me Michelle.”
Matt Vargas is an author and public speaking coach with a degree in sociology and more than ten years of practical experience. Matt is responsible for the empirical surveys at everyday-courtesy.com, is a passionate recreational musician, and blogs here about his experiences in the field of interpersonal communication.