Do you remember the first time you were called “Ma’am”? Kind of a downer wasn’t it? Years ago while living in middle Tennessee, I was at a party whopping it up and feeling mighty sassy when another guest who couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years younger, addressed me that way. It definitely took the wind out of my sails. There are times when I understand being called this out in public. Like at a restaurant, or shop, or when dealing with much younger people-kids basically, but for whatever reasons, I don’t normally care to be addressed in this way. It seems patronizing to me.
About a dozen years ago when I was an advertising sales rep, I worked with a very good looking young man who insisted on calling female clients, “Ma’am.” As one of his co-workers, I did my best to get him to stop doing this. Not only as I explained, do most women find this demoralizing and a turn off, it made him sound like an inexperienced young boy. Not the sort of impression one would wish to cultivate in a sales role. He kept telling us that he was “raised this way” and couldn’t break the habit.
I recently became a mentor of sorts to a young woman, also in a sales role, who insists on calling on potential clients, and also her co-workers “Ma’am”. I have tried to explain to her that this doesn’t do anything to enhance her credibility. In fact, I am convinced that this makes her sound very tentative, inexperienced and makes the women she encounters feel like their age is being highlighted. She too was “raised this way” and doesn’t seem to want to cease using this form of address. In her position, it is crucial that she gain the confidence of the people she calls on. How much better would it be, in my opinion, if she didn’t put herself in a lesser role. As I see it, people prefer to work with others that are their equals. If you saw the movie “Last Vacation” starring Queen Latifah, you might chuckle to remember how she definitely did not like being addressed in this way.
So how do you feel about the “Ma’am” issue? Yay or Nay? Please post away. ~ Cathy.