Times Change, But These Essentials Don't

times change, but these essentials don't

Judith Martin, Miss Manners

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I feel like there’s a large generational gap that needs to be addressed. What is considered necessary or obvious to one generation is considered frivolous or foreign to another. Culture changes, and so do expectations regarding behavior.

I’m a younger millennial, turning 28 next month. Millennials and Generation Z have radically different attitudes than previous generations towards things like work culture, dining and even thank-you cards. We discuss our pay openly to promote equity in the workplace. We care more about how a dining partner treats the waitstaff than which fork he or she uses. And while we do appreciate everybody who gives us gifts, we simply do not place value on thank-you cards like previous generations. We understand the inherent gratitude one receiving a gift has for the giver. We show our appreciation through helping each other out and supporting one another, because our actions speak more loudly than our words.

It’s not that we don’t appreciate you or that we feel entitled to gifts. It’s that our way of saying “thank you” is different. We don’t expect to receive thank-you cards, so please don’t expect us to send them.

In general, please do not expect the younger generations to act the same way yours does. Some manners are eternal; some change. It’s OK to acknowledge this. I know this will likely fall on many deaf ears, but it’s worth hearing the other perspective.

GENTLE READER: While Miss Manners has always known that etiquette will often change with the times, expressing gratitude is something upon which she will not budge.

She is sure that your internal appreciation is brimming, but people who take the time to pick out presents — or more likely, pay for them from your unsolicited wish list — deserve the external and explicit kind. Miss Manners’ inbox is full of complaints to that effect and she assures you that they are not just coming from the older generations.

(They also have old-fashioned notions about getting answers to their invitations, but we digress.)

As far as discussing pay, as long as this information is freely given and not rudely demanded, Miss Manners has no objection, although she would prefer it be confined to the workplace. Career talk in social situations is rarely titillating.

Treating waitstaff with respect and kindness is certainly obligatory. Doing so and using the correct fork, however, are hardly mutually exclusive.

One of the things that Miss Manners has been most impressed by in emerging generations is a fresh emphasis on being inclusive, promoting kindness and not stereotyping or labeling groups of people — rather, appreciating differences and the individual.

She would gently encourage you to remember that when speaking on behalf of them. Your words might be construed as louder than your actions.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an 8-year-girl. Sometimes when I am at school, my friends ask me to play with them. Sometimes I don’t want to, but I don’t know what to say to them, so usually I say yes.

What should I tell them when they ask me? I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

GENTLE READER: “My feet hurt and I’m a bit tired. Could we hang out later?” (This advice is brought to you by Miss Manners’ resident polite child expert and is therefore kid-approved.)

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)



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