I’m from the South. I was raised in the country. I say yes ma’am and no sir. I tend to call other Southern adults Ms. So And So or Mr. So And So. It’s just my way. I was taught this is a sign of respect and a way to acknowledge another person’s wisdom and your understanding of that. There are a few exceptions, but I have justifications for all of them and they mainly involve the other person’s level of comfort and general geographical location (e.g. folks from New York do NOT like to be called Mr. So and So). For the most part – if I meet you, you will be ma’am and/or sir and Ms. and/or Mr. until you tell me otherwise and maybe not even then if I just can’t manage to swing it. Like when people tell me I can leave my shoes on in their house. No. No I can’t. Your family walks on these floors and Lord knows what I stepped in on the way here. I will not leave my shoes on and track all that mess in your house and SHAME on anyone who does!
But I digress.
I, and others like me, have been told that we should not do this in our professional life. That we should not say these things and call others ma’am and sir as it makes us look uneducated, juvenile and unworthy. What is wrong with this world? There is no reality in which you do not owe those who came before you your respect. There is no moment in time where it is okay to not show respect. It’s a lost art in my opinion. Showing respect does not equal weakness or unworthiness or even a lack of gumption. Showing respect is, if anything, a sign of strength and humility, which are qualities I hope we can all at least admit that we should admire. I don’t think our young people should enter the workplace under the assumption that they have to ‘outperform’ and ‘outshine’ to the point that respect is lost.
On a larger level, perhaps our lack of respect for one another is a cancer eating its way through our species. If history teaches us anything it’s that when we stop looking at people as people and start looking at them as a race or a religion or a culture or a belief, we fall apart and the chaos that is always knocking at our door bursts through leaving mass genocide and social inequality in its wake.
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
They had the right idea – their world was just a little smaller then. Today, ‘all men’ might include a few more folks than they had in mind, but hear me now: learning to respect others from the time you’re young is something our entire world could use a little more of, yes Ma’am it is.