Q.I wish to know what is the correct response to a new and increasingly prevalent form of impoliteness -- refusing to notice one's existence.

Examples of this sort of thing include potential employers who never answer or even acknowledge job applications and inquiries, people who promise to phone back and never do, messages to be forwarded that never get forwarded, or dates who stand up their partners without a word of explanation or a trace of embarrassment.

Is there anything to be done about such amnesia, or is it wise to ignore it as best one can?

A. As long as you are open to the occasional, convincing explanation -- "I was having emergency surgery and tried to call you first but passed out during the attempt" -- you may make the general assumption that people who ignore you want to avoid you.

But you have lumped together some quite different situations, requiring reactions that range from a philosophical shrug to taking high insult.

If you have sent an application to a movie studio asking if there is an opening for a star, you cannot expect the consideration you should get from someone who asked you out to a movie. If you are ignored by a store from which you planned to buy something, the best response is to go elsewhere; if you are ignored by the store's credit department when you attempt to correct a wrong bill for which you are being dunned, you might want to go to a lawyer instead.

The key factor is whether the noncaller, corporate or personal, had an obligation toward you. Anyone attempting to avoid a business responsibility should be coldly pursued, and anyone avoiding a social contract (an overly fancy way of saying breaking a date) in this manner should be coldly dropped.

The philosophical shrug is for those who use silence to tell you that your unsolicited professional or personal hopes are doomed. Miss Manners assures you that the comfort of being able to blame them for not replying is greater than that of listening to them spell out why they don't want you.