Yes Ma’am, No Sir? Is it OK?

I am a huge proponent of southern hospitality.There is something about the gentle drawl of the south that intrigues me. The warm smiles and kind nature of “Southern Folk” are a welcomed refreshment after the cold, sometimes icy corporate environments that I have experienced. Authenticity at its best … making people feel respected and special … well, that is what southern charm is all about!

The funny thing about us southerners is: We think everyone loves our ways. It is difficult to imagine that others would not be attracted to our charm. While I agree that the majority of “southern” behaviors fit the bill of correct protocol, there is one that needs to be dropped from the professional arena. It has to go! When I was growing up, it was a sign of respect to say “yes ma’am or no sir” to adults in my company or to those older than I.

Times. Have. Changed.

I think the most difficult thing for us to swallow in the south is that everyone does not embrace the same thoughts as we do. We live in a global society. Just because someone resides or does business in the south does not mean they hold the same values as we do. If we are to truly respect others then we must think about life from their perspective. It does not mean that we change our values. It simply means that our value of “respecting others and making them feel special” shows up in a different way. Our value stays intact. We courteously adjust the expression of that value so it is meaningful to the other person.

Saying ma’am and sir are totally inappropriate in the professional arena. Yes is sufficient. No is sufficient. Anything else can be misconstrued as condescending or projecting that the other person is “old”. Have you ever been somewhere and someone answered you with a “yes ma’am” or a “no sir” and thought …” just how old do they think I am??? … you don’t have to say sir or ma’am to me!” I have felt that way. Judge me if you may, but “ma’am” does not make me feel good coming from an adult and … it should never be used in a professional environment.

These names that mean respect in the home do not belong in the workplace. Save them for your family environment. What you mean as respect can actually feel disrespectful to the recipient in a business setting. So let your yes be yes. Let your no be no. Drop the “sir and ma’am”… at least in professional environments.

However, never ever give up your southern hospitality. It is a light to the world!


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