I love nicknames. I feel like giving a friend or family member a nickname is a way to show you care for them, or to verbalize a connection. I love being privileged enough to call someone something unique, something between the two of us. Don’t get me started on all of the silly nonsensical nicknames I’ve given my kid.
And maybe the reason I am so irritated when a stranger calls me by a pet name is because of the intimacy I associate with nicknames, but yes, I am irritated by it.
The specific situation that sparked this blog post occurred today when I received a call from someone who wanted my professional opinion. They seemed satisfied with my response, and ended the call with, “Thanks, Baby!”
I wish this had been a one-of-a-kind experience, but it happens all the time. Disgruntled Me posted a complaint on Twitter, and one of my followers was quick to point out that they doubted that the caller meant it to be a personal insult, and I agree. But doesn’t that make it worse? This caller, and other callers, aren’t even batting an eyelash at calling a person in a very professional setting the same name they would use for their spouse, child, or cat.
In my experience these off handed pet names are only used professional by men, and only said to women. (Again, in my experience.) I’m sure if I initially picked up the phone and said, “How can I help you, Sweetheart?” the caller would consider me unprofessional. Maybe that could be the litmus test for when it is okay to use pet names? “How would I feel if they used the pet name on me first?”
Another Twitter follower responded that it was just how people talked from where he was from. Great! I assume that means if he were ending a call with Jared from Accounting he would also end the conversation with, “Thanks, Baby!” Or he would be okay with Jared calling him Baby at the end of the call. Or beginning of the call. Whatever.
I guess my main request here is this: consider your words. Make them appropriate to the situation, please. If the setting is professional, be professional. If the setting is more relaxed, go for it, within reason. But for this and so many more situations in life, just be courteous of those around you.