Dear Miss Manners: My brother and I live in different states. We talk regularly by phone, with increased frequency over the past couple of years due to many illnesses and deaths in the extended family.
I am always taken by surprise that she has been listening to our call without my knowledge. There is nothing we are saying that she cannot hear, but I am taken aback nonetheless. I am not using speakerphone on my end, and tend to assume that our conversation is a private one.
How should this be handled? Should my brother notify me that she is listening in? Should I express surprise each time she enters a conversation (super awkward, especially due to the serious nature of many calls)? At this point, I guess that I should just assume she will be eavesdropping.
The etiquette here is identical to what is required if, while you are talking to your brother in person, your sister-in-law approaches you from behind: Your brother should either bring her presence to your attention, or, this being family, she could do so herself.
As in the live version, if you were to suddenly hear her comment over your shoulder, you can express surprise: “Oh! I didn’t know you were on the line!”
If they do not learn after a few calls — or if acting surprised is not as much fun as it sounds — you can also start the call with, “Hi! Is Gillian on the phone, too? Yes? Hi, how are you, Gillian?”
Dear Miss Manners: While our children were growing up, I always permitted their friends to address me by my given name, while my husband always requested to be addressed by Mr. and our difficult-to-pronounce surname, or as Mr. L.
Our children are now in their late 20s. My husband still expects the man living with our daughter to address him in this fashion. In contrast, my husband has called my parents by their given names from the day they met.
Our daughter’s partner is an adult — well-employed, a homeowner — and may one day be our son-in-law. I feel that my husband’s request is disrespectful to both our daughter and her partner. What do you feel is the appropriate form of address, both in person and on tags when exchanging gifts?
It has always been Miss Manners’s belief that respect demands addressing people as they wish to be addressed. Even if the current generation believes they were the first to enunciate this principle.
Respect, however, must be reciprocated. If your husband wants another adult to call him Mr. L., then he needs to address your daughter’s partner as Mr. M. — and to reconcile himself to a first-name basis when Mr. M. extends that courtesy to him.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
© 2023 Judith Martin
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