As I was getting my coffee at a national chain today, I was once again greeted by an employee that does not know me, but feels it is okay to call me “coach, pops, pal, my-man, my-brother”, among other cute names that escape me at the moment. I also noticed he does the same thing with each and every customer, each and every morning. I by no means deserve some kind of preferential treatment, as I am much less important than probably many of the customers that frequent this location. However, he does not know me, my name, or my background.
If we were watching a re-run of Friends, we would assume that everyone is addressing each other in the familiar, or even one step further — with nicknames.
Welcome to true life. In true life, the familiar is just fine if you have been given permission. Permission grants access to the familiar. However, until permission has been granted, the full measure of respect should be shown. If we are speaking to someone we do not know (or know anything about), we should address them with sir, madam, miss, or ma’am at the very least.
Assuming we know a little about them, we should respect titles until we are instructed differently by the person we are addressing. If they are a doctor, we should address them by including it in our greeting, such as “Doctor Jones. Again, we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away” (Raiders of the Lost Ark pun.) If they are a lawyer, it may be “attorney Jones, so nice to see you.” If they are a representative in Congress for your state, it may be “Congressman Jones, I hope your day is great.” If it is our next door neighbor, perhaps “Mr. Jones, your lawn looks great.” And, it is our Priest or our Pastor, it should be “Father Jones/Pastor Jones, good morning.”
If we are sure to show respect, we may be corrected by Dr. Jones with him telling us, “call me Henry.” BUT, until we are given permission to address him by his first name, we should always call people by their title, sir name, or at the very least the prefix of sir, madam, miss, or ma’am. Assuming the familiar is not polite and lacks social etiquette at the bare minimum.