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Miss Manners: Do I have to say ‘please’ and ‘thanks’ to my virtual assistant?

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: Should I say “please” and “thank you” to my virtual assistants? I’m not happy with the ongoing dehumanization of our society — for example, replacing the jobs of human beings with checkout robots so we don’t have to stand in line and look at our neighbors for four minutes.

I don’t ordinarily say, “Siri, PLEASE add milk to my grocery list.” But at the same time, I feel like we lose something as human beings when we stop being courteous, even to people and things that cannot appreciate it. I’m torn on this.

Technically, you need not offer courtesies to inanimate objects, even ones that simulate being your helpmate. The trouble is with the manners of those who no longer distinguish between them and human beings.

There is a difference. And if people would address one another respectfully, there might be even more of a difference.

Miss Manners respectfully requests that those in a position to influence the instructions issued with technology require that commands be issued politely.

Dear Miss Manners: My husband’s manager has a habit of calling after work and on weekends, leading to conversations that last for hours about matters that are not urgent. My husband doesn’t want to upset his manager, and does enjoy talking with him for shorter conversations.

Once, his manager called me after my husband did not pick up the phone. I told him we were eating dinner, but that he could call back afterward.

He wouldn't accept no for an answer, so I responded, “Excuse me, what I meant to say is that we WILL have dinner without interruptions.” He finally said he would speak to him tomorrow instead.

Was there a more polite way of handling this? How do you politely respond to someone without boundaries?

You might ask your husband that. Perhaps he has some thoughts about the boundaries that should be observed between you and his boss.

Dear Miss Manners: After my son’s wedding, some sticky situations have arisen with respect to gifts. Some friends and relatives we’ve been quite close with — and generous to, throughout their occasions over the years — have either given my son very minimal gifts or none at all.

Our feelings are rather hurt and we are questioning whether these relationships are even worth keeping. If we decide to distance ourselves as a result, do we say why? Or do we raise the issue with them and give them an opportunity to fix it?

I know we’re not supposed to focus much on the gift-giving aspect, but when you’ve given to others all along and feel a lack of caring or thoughtfulness in return, it becomes difficult not to pay attention to it.

Evidently you have asked yourself what friends are for, if not to give lavish presents when the occasion presents itself. Under those conditions, you may consider these friendships over. Miss Manners assures you that they will not revive if you let them know the price of your friendship.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

© 2023 Judith Martin