Don’t Call Me Sweetie

Posted October 29, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

There’s an annoying trend in women’s professional interactions that has been driving me insane for a long time. It’s the tendency to call one another “honey, sweetie, darlin’, sweetheart.” And while I understand that it’s a term of endearment, it’s also become a substitute for remembering someone’s name.

So here are my ground rules for the honey, sweetie, darlin’ comments:

Don’t Call Me Sweetie If:

  • You’re calling me that because you forgot my name. I’m not dumb. I can hear that you’re being fake. Instead, have the courage to respectfully say, “I’m sorry. I can’t seem to remember your name. Tell me again so I can address you properly.”
  • You just met me. If we’ve never had cocktails together or you don’t know where I’m from, my husband’s name, etc. you shouldn’t be using a term of endearment like “honey” to address me.

Ok, I’ll Let One “Honey” Slide If:

  • We have a strong relationship that spans both personal and professional lives.
  • You’re saying hello and excited to see me, and you’ve already met the first criteria.
  • I’m sad, crying, or in a bad mood. I give you permission to say, “Honey, I’m sorry.”

Other than that, don’t call me sweetie! And don’t call other people sweetie either. We are grown women, we are professionals, and we can learn to use one another’s names properly and with care.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."



    I was addressed that way by elders when I was a child.

    Now that I am a grown woman, I am irritated when another adult, usually a woman my age or even younger, calls me ‘sweetie’, it doesn’t sound like a term of endearment. It sounds fake and belittling.

    In my personal opinion, ‘sweetie’ sounds as if the person being addressed that way is beneath the person using the term or as if this person views others as small, weak, or little.

    Regardless, it needs to stop. As Marcy said, show some respect and use my name or ask me what my name is. I won’t be offended.


    A simple solution would be this response to an inappropriate term of endearment: “Jane, I would prefer to be called Susan. Thanks.”

    Say once, and repeat if necessary.


    Marcy, I couldn’t agree more. This happened to me recently at my doctor’s office…by the doctor no less! Talk about being in a vulnerable situation, sitting in a paper dress, and being made to feel more insignificant. And she had my chart right in front of her, so I don’t think it was about remembering my name. I think she thought it was endearing. But I found it really unprofessional.

    Thanks for raising this topic.


    Wow … you hit a pet peeve of mine with this posting! To me, in any situation, business or personal the term “sweetie” is like nails on a chalk board! The only chance I give it is the tone it is delivered in, but usually it is just thrown out there like it’s your nickname or such, being used without permission. And like Christina the feeling I get when it is used is that the person feels above me and worse if you know they call everyone sweetie! Oh the list goes on!! All and all it’s a bad communications style. Robyn … you’ve got the answer. But that has to be implemented carefully as well. No punching allowed 🙂 Great post.


    This article reminds me of the Psycho rant from the movie Stripes as the lunatic character goes on a rage about how everyone else bothers him… and the others snicker on about his anxieties as the sergeant finally rebuts ‘Lighten up Francis’.

    Watch the youtube clip, and replace ‘psycho’ with ‘sweetie’.


      Good one Karl. I am sick and tired of the “overly PC” crowd. I’m not sure when it happened, I’m not sure how it happened, I’m not sure why it happened, but somewhere along the way, we ceased being adults and now everything hurts our feelings. Yes, I’m over 50. I’m not an advocate of bad behavior, I think racism is bad, I think discrimination of age, sex, religion, national origin, color, disability, race or sexual preference is wrong. But I believe that political correctness has gone too far and made us too sensitive. I agree Karl, but I’ll say it… lighten up sweetie.

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