Q. There are 10 people, either immediate family or friends, to whom I write at least twice a month, asking questions about the development of my nephews, their own condition and so on. All these people take anywhere from a month to four months to reply. When they finally do write, my questions are seldom answered. They also fail to mention the birthday card or present I mailed.
When I confront them in person or on the phone, they say something like, "Oh, you're so good about that sort of thing. I'll try to do better." Believe me, they never do.
I don't want to give up on these people, but my patience is wearing thin. I also don't think it's my place to find out if they have received packages that they should have received months ago.
A. Miss Manners yields to no one in her admiration of letter writers and of those who take an active interest in their friends and relations. She will certainly join you in hearty condemnation of those who do not swiftly acknowledge receiving presents. One can only presume that such people dislike receiving presents, and stop sending them.
But rather than chastise your delinquent correspondents about keeping up general correspondence, she would like to say something about the pacing of relationships.
Whether the usual contacts between people are by visit, by telephone or by letter, their frequency must be regulated by what is appropriate to the schedule and emotional commitment of each. This cannot be done unilaterally, by your deciding how often it is convenient for you to keep in touch, and then berating people who don't follow your standard.
However, Miss Manners has an idea for improving not only your correspondents, but the world. Why don't you encourage your nephews to write to you?
That will not be simple, but it will be rewarding. Children hate to write letters, but they love to receive them, and it is possible to establish a connection in their minds if one keeps at it. By sending them amusing letters, showing an interest in their activities, perhaps given them paper and stamps, and expressing appreciation for their efforts, you may succeed in encouraging them to grow up with better habits than their parents. to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.