As an etiquette consultant and as a consumer observing exchanges between staff and customers, I see the everything between the smiles and the grimaces that can make or break first impressions. I always advocate that we err on the side of formality and converse formally, regardless of the age of those with whom we are assisting or engaging, especially in professional situations.
Our multigenerational workforce is comprised of five generations; therefore, communicating with one another can be quite challenging. The use of common expressions (a.k.a. phatic expressions and minimizers) are perceived in varying levels of graciousness or impertinence and can make or break first impressions.
Some examples are:
1. “No problem.” versus, “You’re welcome.”
2. “Have a good one.” versus, “Have a nice day.”
3. “What?” versus, “Pardon me.”
4. “I’m good.” versus, “No, thank you.”
5.“I’m good.” versus, “It’s so nice of you to offer.”
Millennials view traditional responses as being too formal, and sometimes even disingenuous. Whereas, baby-boomers view alternative responses as being too casual to be acceptable and that such replies lack the acknowledgment of gratitude for the service being performed. In customer service interactions, everyone thinks that everyone else is being rude when they’re really being polite in their own language.
The most notable expression is “No problem” versus, “You’re welcome.”
The two phrases have converse meanings to different age sets. “You’re welcome” means to Millennials what “No problem” means to Baby Boomers, and vice versa. For example, a young store clerk saying, “No problem” is conveying that this act or service did not inconvenience me in any way and is downplaying his act of kindness for the sake of helping someone.
However, the baby boomer, or someone like myself, may interpret this reply as inappropriate to the occasion and that the clerk was in fact inconvenienced by having to assist him. If the young clerk replied, “You’re welcome,” the older person would perceive that he/she went out of his/her way to help and accepts such thanks.
Again, err on the side of formality, especially in professional situations, and conversations and customer service interactions will be well received. Choose your expressions well because it can make or break first impressions.
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