Family Relations/Sister help

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Question
hi I am 45 and my sister is 32. we were extremely close when we were younger and thenshe married a not so nice man and moved away. Somehow she no longer wanted to hear constructive criticism or suggestions as a sister.  We would always be able to share if we didn't look good in certain clothes or if we thought the other was making a poor decision. It was okay if we didn't listen to each other but we always had suggestions. since divorcing that man we started to talk but it has went south again. She says she don't like how I talk to her sometimes. She does not accept anything anyone says that goes against what she wants to do...Friends or family...she stops talking to them if they say something she doesn't like to hear. I have tried not saying anything but somehow something that comes out of my mouth offends her at some point and I never can do anything right I feel. I am ready to stop speaking to her for the rest of my life but I don't want to. I want to be close with her. Are there some questions we can ask each other or some kind of suggestion you have that we can use to help clear this up? Neither one of us can afford counseling. I do not want to live with not being able to suggest things or to watch her make mistakes and not say a word.  I don't expet her follow my suggestions. I understand she may have to make her own mistakes I don't think I should have to sit back and never say a word. I have been a teacher for 19 years....I have my masters degree in elementary education and two lack to classes to be a school counselor... I know I am NOT saying anything in a vindictive or malicious way. But somehow she always takes it that way. I only bring up my education and experience so you know I I'm aware of what I'm saying and how I'm saying it...can you help? Thank you!!

Answer
Hi, Tammy, thanks for your question. you asked "Are there some questions we can ask each other or some kind of suggestion you have that we can use to help clear this up?"

Well, the answer is yes (although you may not like the suggestions, or it may not be what you had in mind). My suggestions are:

1. ask open ended questions.
2. Only ask those questions in the manner of "I don't know you and I want to find out more". e.g., "can you tell me more about that?" or "how did that make you feel?"
3. Never ask questions that are, in actually, meant to convey a criticism of the other person or disapproval of their actions. e.g., "why did you have to do that?"
4. Paraphrase what the other person said (means saying what they said, but using different words).
5. Ask the other person if your paraphrase accurately represented what they said
6. Keep on trying until they say 'yes, that's what I said."
7. It's ok to say approving things, such as "I love you."
8. repeat

Using this formula, you can have a relationship with anyone. It might be more limited than you want, but it is better than no relationship. BTW, this works especially well with teens.

IF, and only if, the relationship is working well, there might come a time when she might be open to hearing what you have to say (about her). However, being able to hear when that happens, and learning how to say those things are advanced skills, and take practice. For now, stick to level 1, above, and enjoy your newfound relationship.  

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.

Expertise

questions framed similarly to 'what are some ways to respond when someone does/says X' are best. Questions posed in the form of 'why does my father do/say Y', or 'how would you diagnose my mother when she does/says Z' are difficult, if not impossible, to answer. I will probably reframe your question to fit the first question (what do I do). Nay question regarding any family member is fair game. Some of the most difficult are in the area of step-parenting and divorcing families.

Experience

I've been a licensed psychologist in Florida since 1994. I've evaluated and/or treated thousands of patients.

Organizations
American Psychological Association Florida Psychological association National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology

Publications
www.bruceborkosky.blogger.com

Education/Credentials
Psy.D., Miami Institute of Psychology, 1993 M.CS., U. of Dayton, 1984 B.A., Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978

Awards and Honors
Award for Years of Dedicated Service, Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society, 1999

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