Show Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I’ve been called many things in my life – some polite, some not.  My name has been misspelled and mispronounced.  Neither really bothers me, except when the person has known me for quite awhile and well, quite frankly, the mispronunciation is something of a passive-aggressive move.  Something else that comes in the passive-aggressive category, consciously or not, is the use of the term “kiddo”.  “Way to go ’kiddo’” and “Let’s do some business some time ’kiddo’” isn’t cool.  It isn’t courteous and it isn’t showing any respect.  Especially if you really don’t know the person who you are calling “kiddo”.

Honey, Darling, Babe, Kiddo – There’s History and Intent in Those Words

As I was launching my career In the corporate world decades ago (and yes, it was decades with an “s”), there were many occasions when a member of senior management or a peer would say something like “Darling, sit down and we’ll let you know when you can have an opinion.”  Or “Honey, the numbers might be a bit confusing for you – let’s wait for someone from finance to explain them.”  Well, I was the finance person.  On the other side, there were the old guard who had been with the company since the 1950’s and would call and say “Darlin’ could you come down to my office and explain all this stuff to me.  I just don’t understand it and I have a meeting on it in a couple of hours.  I need to be up to speed and I can count on you to clear it up.”

The first two “gentlemen” were not.  The third gentleman was from another generation and meant no harm with the “darlin’” terminology.  He denoted respect in how he used it and in what he was requesting.

Kiddo, Babe, and Beyond – Words as Power Tools

Fast forward to today.  I still get the forms of address as power tools of passive-aggressive behavior.  From where I stand today, I can laugh and write about it.  I can also acknowledge it is coming from people who should definitely know and act better.

Colleague, peer, acquaintance or “friend” – you may not mean disrespect, but you can certainly convey it when you address someone as “kiddo” or “babe” or using any other overly familiar, cutesy term in a business setting.  “Hey kiddo, we should do business sometime!” Is not the way to propose doing business at a networking event – especially to a professional woman.  What would it be like if the situation were reversed and someone walked up to one of the more experienced guys and said “Hey old-timer, we should do business sometime!”.

As the song goes – R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  You may not mean any disrespect, but sometimes how you address someone may convey just that.  Keep that in mind!  Everyone’s frame of reference is not the same.  It isn’t about being politically correct; it is about being conscious of other people’s feelings.

So whenever you may be thinking (or not) about how you are about to address someone in an e-mail, in public, or at home, take a moment to remember that words build relationships.  Words may also damage relationships quickly.  The terms, phrases, and titles which may be interchangeable or carelessly tossed about in the media or on TV may not be appropriate for any of us to use in our workplace, networking, business, casual, or personal relationships.

“Honey” should stay in the jar on a kitchen shelf or the grocery store.  “Darling” had better be the last name of the person you are talking to or a Disney character.  “Sweetheart” is term of endearment best left for your significant other.  The boys and girls are playing in a school playground.  “Kiddo” left the building with Elvis.  Babe is (A) a baseball player, or (B) a pig in a movie.  You get the idea. and really, it isn’t anything you didn’t already know.  You just needed a refresher.  Now let’s all remember to show a lot of R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

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