Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Words matter

I recently received a solicitation phone call asking to speak to the man of the house.  I kid you not.  I had all kinds of appropriate responses including, "do you speak dog?" because he is the only man in the house right now.   My ultimate response was, " No. You can't."  He didn't really know what to say so next and sensing my annoyance, he hung up.  Really what did he think he would get from that call?  And hello, we all have caller ID.  

I liken this too to resume cover letters that are addressed to Dear Sir(s).  Awareness (or lack thereof) of gender differences is shocking.  How are people unaware of how this comes across?    

I have a colleague (and good friend) who taught me the best lesson ever;  she gave me great language to use.  She was in a meeting (all men and one woman) and a male team member referred to the group as guys- as in, 'come on guys, let's get this done.'  She bristled and explained that inferring a male perspective was offensive.  He told her to lighten up.  For the duration of the meeting, she then referred to the group as 'gals.'  Her actions helped drive home a terrific point.  They got it.  I hope the guy who called me gets it too.  


Jim said...

Great point -- and these awareness issues go beyond gender. I get calls from time to time with the caller asking to speak to my wife. I am gay and, by strange coincidence, so is my partner. Neither of us answers to "wife". I give the same answer as you -- "No, you can't."

I like your friend's handling of the guys/gals situation. Did she get to tell him to lighten up, too?

-- Jim aka "Evil Skippy at Work"

Belle said...

Really good illustration of using the term "guys." At first I thought, "Why would she care if he used that term? It seems generic to me." But when she turned it around on him I could certainly see it.

Deirdre said...

Thanks for stopping by!

Jim, she wasn't successful getting him to lighten up but she sure made her point. :)

Belle, I had the same response - guys seems generic enough - until she used gals to describe the group. :)

Appreciate your thoughts.

Michael Krupa said...

I see this as an on going education issue. I like to think of myself as pretty hip to these type of gender and relationship status issues but I am sure there are other cultural items that I fail at that I am not even aware of. The more we surround ourselves with a diverse group of people the more we learn.

Deirdre said...

Isn't that the truth? Life is one big classroom.