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The effect of nicknames on a personality

Updated: Oct 8, 2020


Impressions of people change when nicknames are used. Nicknames are the names used that are not your legal names. When an alternative name is given, it indicates, apparently or subtly, that the person giving the new name is attempting to encourage the recipient to show only the qualities and characteristics indicated by the new name.

When legal guardians rename their child with a version of the given name, which now includes a ‘Y’ ending, the adults are asking the child to change his or her behavior to be more likable and more obedient to them. Names like Tamara becoming Tammy, Katherine becoming Kathy and Michael becoming Mickey fall into this category as well as Timmy, Jimmy and Billy.

The effect of nicknames on a personality

When someone calls a person by a nickname, it alters what characteristics the personality shares while around that person. When we accept an imposed name, we are allowing someone else to determine what parts of us that person wishes to see. This is also true when we respond to more than one name. Depending on which name is used influences which characteristics are shown.

Said another way, responding to nicknames greatly influences who you are. For example, Katherines are in control, leaders, steady, dependable, seekers of truth, independent, organized, can see things from other people’s point of view. They shine when they are in charge.

Katherines who use the name Kathy are still in control of themselves but not in control of others. They are still steady and dependable, but now they fluctuate in their decisions due to their need to be liked. Kathys are neither as independent nor sexy as Katherines and have more difficulty seeing alternative viewpoints.

In Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” the suitor Petruccio changes the name of the shrew from Katherine to Kate which assists him in taming her to be obedient.

Many people are renamed with common romantic names that are terms of endearment like Honey or Sweetheart. Honey requests that the person be more nurturing and likable, while Sweetheart brings in emotional understanding.

Not all altered names are positive

Consider school children being renamed Fatso or Retard or any other disparaging name. Once a new name catches on, it “tends to take on a life of its own,” according to Robert Needham’s article “Names and Personalities”. Needham continues, “By zeroing in on a particular trait, a nickname can define or even create an identity.”

To use a different version of your name or not? How do you decide?

Remember, when responding to a name, you display those qualities represented in that name, regardless if the name is one you have given to yourself or not. So, it is important what you allow others to call you.

Knowing what both the birth name and the nickname mean and how the qualities shift between the two can help you determine if you are better off with your original name or not. A private session with Sharón can help you determine which is in your best interest.

If you do not respond to a name other than your birth name, then the name does not have an effect on your personality. Your birth name will always be a part of you.

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