Bro, bruh, sis, or girlfriend: Whatever term of endearment you’re using to address your colleagues needs to grow up.

Yo, Bro. I just sent over an offer on your listing. Hit me up and let’s talk it through.

Hey, Girlfriend! Come see me at my open house Sunday. You’re going to love this listing!

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the trappings of the real estate business. I love the problem-solving and collaboration it brings with it. I also, truly, love the etiquette that comes with business. I value professionalism and the process of meeting and getting to know clients and colleagues while building a professional network.

At the same time, I’m not uptight. I’m more likely to wear a hoodie than a business suit to a meeting. Still, I believe in good manners and approaching people in a professional way. 

Lately, however, whether I’m on the phone or in a face-to-face, in-person conversation, I feel like I’m back in school. Whether at a car dealership, restaurant or store, even talking with a high-powered top producer: Everyone seems to greet me, and others, as Brother, Bro, or Bruh. Even when we’ve never met before.

What is this? MTV’s Jersey Shore?

How do you speak to someone you just met?

I remember a time when you called people Mr. or Ms. with their last name until you were invited to call them by their first name. At 40 years old, I still call people Sir and Ma’am, and my parents were not military.

The furthest you might eventually go is a nickname, usually after many years of working together. 

That rule has long ago gone out the window for most industries and individuals, but how did we fast-forward to Bruh?

The women I work with say the same thing about Sis and Girlfriend. What a strange thing — someone you’ve never met before calling you Sis.

Some people don’t like their real brothers and sisters. They’re certainly not in the market for a new one — especially when it’s someone they’ve never met.

On top of all this, I find that people in business sometimes take on an instant intimacy when talking with, well, everybody. They have no problem telling near-strangers about their family problems, personal problems, medical problems, or drinking problems.

People also seem to use profanity a lot more than they used to. Aside from the fact that it’s potentially offensive or open to misinterpretation, someone who curses non-stop just sounds kind of dumb — like they don’t know real words.

I wonder if what’s changed is social media. In a strange way, it seems to have made us feel like we already know someone when we meet them for the first time. That can be a very good thing for making connections and warming up cold leads. It can be a very bad thing when it causes us to act a little too familiar with a new acquaintance.

Understand, I’m not suggesting we go back to some sort of artificial Victorian-style formality. I live and work blocks from the beach in Southern California. We practically invented casual.

Think about how you’re coming across in that first conversation

What I am suggesting is that we take a step back and think about how we’re coming across to both clients and colleagues.

  • When you’re introduced to the person who’s helping you with the most important and expensive financial deal of your life, do you want them to call you by your name or call you Bro or Sis?
  • When you’re a broker meeting an agent for the first time, do you want to be called Bruh or Girlfriend?
  • When you’re negotiating a multi-million dollar deal, do you want to present yourself like a high-level professional or a guy who sounds like he just walked out of the weight room at the gym?

When you’re introduced to someone, whether on the phone, via email or in person, take the cue from them. “Hi, I’m Bob” means that, in most cases, that person is looking to be called Bob.

Save Bro, Bruh, Brother, Sis and Girlfriend for your brothers, sisters, and long-time friends, not clients, not colleagues, and not people you’re trying to connect with for the first time. Get close to them through the time you spend together, the service you provide, and the way you treat them consistently.

I’m not asking you to call me Mr. Palmquist when you see me next time. Troy will do. It’s my name, after all.