The Blight of “The Casual”

Welp, I’m off to New York. More on that later. Feels moderately irreverent to talk about it on here before hand.

What I did want to talk about is something I’ve noticed lately that has bothered me (probably more than it should).

Have you ever noticed that people are more commonly sacrificing manners and politeness in order to seem super casual and approachable? It isn’t them being outwardly rude and they are still doing their best to be nice, but they just omit certain social niceties in order to seem like “that cool guy.”

It’s like this: You go into a place of business and the clerk or an employee says “Hi there, how are you folks doing?”  and the general response would be “Great. How about yourself?” Or some variation. However, in the past few years at different jobs or just in general public I have received many different responses to that question:

  • “Livin’ the dream, my man.”
  • “Just another day in paradise”
  • “Would be better if my wife wasn’t in the hospital”
  • “Fuck Off… nah, I’m playin. I’m good.”
  • “No thanks.” (in regards to “how are you?” not even “may I help you.”

In addition, I’ve noticed people (typically men, since I am also a man: Not sure if the experience would be different in regards to women speaking with other women) rarely ever use “sir” or “ma’am” for people they don’t know and are operating in some sort of working capacity (i.e. retail, food, etc.). They opt instead for words like “buddy,” “boss,” or the ever popular “man/my man.”

It just seems odd to me that people, or “we” I suppose, spend so much time trying to break down the barrier of formality that it sometimes feels as though the people to whom we are giving our patronage haven’t earned/ don’t deserve the extra level of respect that simple choice of diction conveys. It’s odd to me that we would rather say “I’m cool and you’d want to have a beer with me” over “I respect the work you are doing and thank you for your services.”

I know it seems like a small thing, and like I said, this trend doesn’t directly correlate with blatant rudeness (though there are plenty of rude people in the world). However, it does sometimes feel demeaning, especially for younger individuals in higher ranking positions. This would bother the CRAP out of me when I was a property manager, in that dads and older residents never seemed comfortable treating me with formality, opting instead to treat me as “some kid” that they just have to do business with right now. It was unfair, often making me feel directly demeaned and disrespected simply because I was under the age of 30.

It’s simple enough, in my opinion. Thank you. Yes sir. Excuse me. Please. Easy phrases that remind individuals that you respect them, whether they’re an officer of the law, a CEO of a multi-million dollar conglomerate, or the cashier at Wal-Mart. It doesn’t matter. They wake up and have to do what they have agreed to do every day. Just remind them that you appreciate it, whether they care what you think or not. And if you frequent a place enough and learn the names of the people working there, then sure, call them “buddy” and crack lots of jokes. Do whatever you like at that point, because both you and they have reached an adequate comfort level. You have moved beyond customer/patron/employee and have instead become an acquaintance.

Just remember: Formal First, Casual Second.

~C

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