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    Miss Conduct

    A thank you that lasts

    Showing appreciation at the end of the year. Plus, a call for the best and worst in behavior.

    >This summer, I planned a party for my mom’s 80th birthday at a local club. Weather necessitated a change of venue that the club’s events director helped me arrange. The party was fabulous, and I sent thank you notes to the director and her staff. A colleague suggested my correspondence should have gone to the woman’s boss, so that she could have received credit. How can I gracefully follow up with her boss, given how much time has passed?

    M.G. / Arlington

    If the events director is that much of a hot ticket, I’m sure he or she managed to slip that note of yours into the boss’s line of vision by now, so don’t beat yourself up. Happily, this is the time of year for catching up on correspondence. In fact, during the first few weeks of January I often get a couple of e-mails from readers who disagreed with something I had written months earlier, and they are just then getting around to chastising me. (Something to look forward to!)

    Sending a note after this much time will make an even stronger impression. The event director’s kindness and competence led to an appreciation that stuck in your memory and will probably lead you to recommend the club to others. This is the kind of thing that makes the hearts of businesspeople grow three sizes.


    Calling out the good behavior of others is something we should do more often. I’m making it a resolution for 2013 not only to do more courtesies to others but also to pay more attention to the courtesies done to me. It’s easy to notice rude people, because rudeness rips the social fabric. Noticing courtesy takes a sharper eye and a softer heart.

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    But wait! you cry. Isn’t today Festivus, the holiday popularized by Seinfeld all those years ago? Shouldn’t we be Airing Our Grievances with our fellow humans? Well, yes. So on my blog, at, we’ll have our annual Festivus Airing of Grievances. Homicidal drivers, oblivious pedestrians, passive-aggressive colleagues, impossible in-laws; come over to the blog and bemoan the stupidity and venality of others to your heart’s content!

    And then adjust your focus back to courtesy. In 2013, I’ll be taking ongoing nominations for the Miss Conduct Good Actor Awards, for people who perform in life with kindness and imagination. The awards can be for small, personal acts of courtesy or events in the news. I’ll highlight a Good Actor every week or so, and at the end of the year readers can vote on the 2013 Good Actor award.

    The 2012 award goes to Special Olympics athlete John Franklin Stephens, who responded to Ann Coulter’s reference to President Obama as a “retard’’ with an open letter. “I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have,’’ he wrote.

    “Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarky sound bite to the next.’’


    For all of us who must struggle to be thoughtful, Happy 2013.

    Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

    NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP?Write to her at And read her blog at