Dear Annie: I am extremely disappointed and saddened by your advice to "Sad in Wisconsin," whose son's family does not acknowledge the gifts "Sad in Wisconsin" gives. The writer answered his own question, believing he should express his feelings to his son. All you had to do was agree.
Instead, you offered "three apparent options." None of the three involved actually telling his son how he feels. You indicated that the best one would be to just stop sending gifts. Why? Why do so many people in our society often choose to suffer in silence or "make someone pay" because they choose not to communicate with the person about their feelings and needs? You of all people, a giver of advice to millions, should encourage your readers to communicate with others.
So much of the divide in our country is because people don't talk. They don't listen. They don't share their feelings and needs. They expect others to read their minds.
Please, use your bully pulpit to stop the madness and encourage people to communicate. "Sad in Wisconsin" obviously loves his son and wants a good relationship with him. No longer sending gifts would not accomplish that. Telling his son how he feels and what he needs just might. I'd also like to recommend that you and all of your readers check out Marshall Rosenberg's books and some videos of his work on YouTube, as well as the Center for Nonviolent Communication. It's life-changing. -- Disappointed
Dear Disappointed: What a wonderful letter you have written. Thank you! Here is a letter from another reader who agrees with you:
"Sad in Wisconsin" wrote with the all-too-common issue of not receiving thanks for the presents he gives to his son and family. You offered three options:
"1) Keep sending gifts, and make peace with the lack of thank-yous. 2) Continue sending gifts and resenting the lack of thank-yous. 3) Stop sending gifts."
But you did not include the most obvious option: Talk to them. It doesn't have to be an accusatory conversation. He should just point out that the lack of acknowledgment makes it look as if the gifts are not wanted or are taken for granted. "Sad in Wisconsin" should also tell his son that he hopes he keeps that in mind in all of his relationships and that he hopes he'll teach that lesson to his daughter better than he did to him. If that discussion were not to get results, he could go straight to option No. 3.
No one had that talk with my niece, and her lack of basic manners cost her over $1 million in inheritance (and she's still clueless as to what she missed and why). Though the purpose of thank-yous is not to position oneself for an inheritance, the attitude adjustment is rewarding in many ways. -- Surprised by Your Reply
Dear Surprised: What a powerful example of the importance of teaching young people to say thank you. As my regular readers know, I always advise that people communicate their issues with others. I missed it this time. Thank you many times over for pointing out the obvious.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.