Like standing when a lady enters the room, calling someone ma’am or sir is one of the finer points of etiquette that’s losing its footing with the current generation. And while I’m okay seeing some things die off from that era (like those weird Organ stores in the mall), the common courtesy of a respectful address is a baton worth carrying.
Gentlemen, my encouragement to you is that you default to calling people ma’am or sir or, if you’re hella’ English, madam and squire. Why? Because it’s classy. When the lady at the check-out counter says, “Thanks for shopping at Fatties” and you say, “Yes ma’am, thanks for your help,” people behind you in line are going to say, “Now there’s a real captain of industry type!”. When your Uncle, who likes you because he knows that you know and are cool with “it”, introduces you to his new “friend” and you say, “Pleasure to meet you sir,” everyone around you will have a reverence for your maturity.
Dude, I’m not saying that Old English crap. I’m keeping it real with bro or pal!
Broseph, we’re not in your frat house getting stoked about the huge “Killer BP” party (Beer Pong). You’re an adult, and you live in the real world. Bro, pal, chief, Dr. Wang, etc., are all reserved for the close friends who put up with your idiocy. Put away the toga and bust out the manners.
Here’s a word of caution, you’re going to get some push back on this ma’am/sir thing. When you call a guy sir, he’s probably not going to say anything and just think you’re respectful. When you call a lady ma’am, you may get a surprising, “Don’t call me ma’am, I’m not old enough for that!”
First of all, yes she is. But we always want to respect that our XX sisters are a bit more sensitive to age than the XY’s, so here’s a line I use all the time that works like a charm:
Very old lady: “Ma’am? I’m too young to be called ma’am!”
Grown Man: “I can assure you [looking square into her eyes], it’s about respect, not age.”
Snap! I’m telling you, the “respect not age” line will defuse the bomb 99% of the time and lets them know that, in fact, you are just calling them ma’am because you’re polite, not because you see them as your elder.
Here are a few closing rules for ma’am and sir:
- Use it for everyone, regardless of age. 11-year-old kids know when they’re being respected and will appreciate an adult talking to them that way.
- If someone says, “Oh no, please, call me [insert name] Murdock”, feel free to do it. In fact, it’s better etiquette to call them by their name than to ignore the request.
-Avoid saying ma’am in southern accent, lest you sound like Matthew McConaughey (alright, alright).
Thanks for reading, kind sir.
Remember, tomorrow is Ask A Grown Man Thursday.