28 Dec

Is there a gender-neutral way to say sir or ma’am in English?

I received this question about a gender-neutral way to say sir or ma’am in English via the “Ask Dan” section of the website:

Dan. I work in retail. Greeting and interacting with customers is the most important thing I do. Mam and sir are so outdated, though safe. Some peoples gender isn’t obvious and I dont want to label them. Are there some safe words to use?  Is there a Gender-Neutral Way to Say Sir or Ma’am in English?
I am in Australia some Customers don’t mind a darl, mate or sweetie, but some really get upset. When you speak to hundreds of people a day and want to appear friendly whats left?
Thanks for your time.
Sindy

You’ll find the answer to is there a gender-neutral way to say sir or ma’am in English in today’s video.

The main thing you want to keep in mind is that people don’t notice if you’re leaving out the formal “sir” or “ma’am” if you fill in the void with something else. For example, if you normally say, “Have a great day, Sir” then when you aren’t sure of the person’s gender, instead of saying that, fill in the void with a few more words so the phrase has the equivalent or more “beats” to it. For example, “Have a wonderful day,” or “Make it a great day,” both have equal or more “beats” to it, so if you say it in place of, “Have a great day, sir,” it’s not noticed as different from the rest of the sayings you normally use to the average listener.

So while the answer to is there a gender-neutral way to say sir or ma’am in English is technically No, you can still maintain your professional tone and savvy rhythm while skipping the whole “I don’t know if you’re a boy or a girl” faux-pas.

Make sure to leave your comments here and let me know what you think, or if you have any other effective communication skills questions I can help you with, let me know.

Thanks!

Dan

For more tips on danger phrases and power phrases, visit our effective communication skills training blog.

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Dan O'Connor specializes in delivering strategic verbal patterns, danger phrases, power phrases, lead-in lines, closing lines, freestyle scripts, and other specific tactics that participants can immediately use to achieve instant results both at work and at home. Thousands of individuals listen each day to Dan's online podcasts and watch his videos, and the nations leading businesses have had Dan come onsite to help with creating healthier relationships, a more positive work environment, a superior customer service force, and an atmosphere that promotes and values all of the people ­­all of the time.

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