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Miss Manners 1/3

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have two sons in their 30s who were taught at a young age to say “thank you” and were encouraged to write thank you notes to the senders of gifts they received. We modeled gratitude in our behavior, as well.

Fast forward to the past few years. They have both moved many states away, so gift giving is remote, and we are rarely present when gifts are received. Sadly for us, we get no acknowledgment or any form of a thank-you.

In every other way, they are loving, caring people. Whenever we receive a gift or card from them, we promptly thank them, whether verbally or in writing.

We’re really at a loss for what to do. We give gifts with an open hand and have no expectations that they will like the gifts or even keep them. I honestly don’t feel we’re giving just to get recognition.

Saying something to them about this issue might be misconstrued as us asking for a thank you rather than a request to look at the broader issue of being grateful for others’ thoughtfulness.

The real issue is that it pains us to think that they are equally ungrateful to others; I would like to encourage them to be grateful in all ways to all people. Do you have a suggestion for broaching this subject in a loving and nonjudgmental way?

GENTLE READER: Yes: Feedback. Miss Manners would prefer to frame this issue in terms of gratitude and empathy, but that tends to make people’s eyes roll or glaze.

Yet they understand feedback and believe that it would be rude to ignore the self-advertisements of people they have never even met. A photograph of someone’s lunch prompts more politeness than – well, actual presents from family and loved ones from people they profess to love.

So, please tell your sons that you expect feedback and that they might remember what form you expect that to take. Hint: not emojis.

You are not helping by claiming to be nonjudgmental and not caring on your own behalf. It is a just judgment to declare that generosity and gratitude are a paired couple, and one must inspire the other even in regard to parents.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We always write thank-you notes for gifts, lovely evenings at someone’s home, and so forth. When someone comes to our home and brings flowers or a bottle of wine, we don’t write a note since that gift is, in a way, a thank-you to us for hosting.

But as that gift gets larger, does it cross the line into thank-you note territory?

We hosted my sister and brother-in-law for a weekend, and they sent an enormous basket of goodies afterwards. It was impressively large, and will last us quite some time. Even though it was itself a thank-you for the weekend, do we send them a thank-you note for the basket?

GENTLE READER: Yes. That qualifies as a present, no matter what the motivation for its being sent. To avoid this becoming an endless exchange, Miss Manners advises you to thank them with words alone – unaccompanied by a gift of your own.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.

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