Q: I have a step-niece who never writes thank-you notes. This is normally a mere annoyance because it makes it impossible for me to know for sure if a birthday card or gift arrived safely, but I’ve come to expect the lack of acknowledgment for the normal gift-giving instances.
I sent this niece a graduation card with a monetary gift enclosed. I shouldn’t have been surprised that a thank-you never arrived — either in written form, email, text, or even through her parents — although I’d hoped that the special occasion might have inspired a sudden burst of politeness.
No such luck. However, in this case, I’m finding it much harder to get over my annoyance. It’s especially difficult to be gracious when my brother asks me to mentor this girl (his stepdaughter) as she begins her studies at my college alma mater. I don’t warrant a thank-you note, but it’s perfectly OK to hit me up for my time and advice?
So, given that changing this girl’s lack of manners is most likely impossible, can you advise me of a mantra I can say to myself that allows me to keep up good family relations? I will see this family in a few short weeks, and I don’t want my grudge to show.
A: As your brother has invited you to mentor this girl, your first act of advice could be about encouraging kindness and generosity by showing gratitude. Not only will this ease the unpleasantness for you, but it will also be extremely useful to her in future business and social relationships.
While Miss Manners does not generally condone chastising people for their etiquette transgressions (that, after all, is her lot in life), in this particular case, you have been invited to help the poor girl out. If worded properly and kindly (“Now that you are in college, you are going to want to be sure to express thanks for any acts of kindness, if for no other reason than to show that you are grateful and make them want to continue”), correcting her behavior would help everyone out.
Q: On a sunny morning, I put on my running shoes and took the same tour I always do. Unfortunately, this time, a funeral just started at the church I always pass. The funeral car was still on the way to the church and the family of the departed were walking behind the car.
I was running on the sidewalk, in the opposite direction. It was so weird, that group of people were mourning, and I was running happily, thanking God for the beautiful weather. Should I have stopped running until they passed? What is the right thing to do?
A: Unless you are physically in their way, Miss Manners does not — nor would anyone — expect you to cease all activity and pretend you are temporarily among the bereaved. An alternative to stopping your run would be going across the street so as to maintain a respectful distance as a courtesy.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.