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Criticism

How can I tactfully make suggestions to a sister who makes horrible life style decisions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)

 

Criticism

How can I tactfully make suggestions to a sister who makes horrible life style decisions?

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)

 

Dr. Kenner: Here\'s a question I received from a woman who wants to speak to her sister, a sister who is making one bad choice after another, but she wants to speak to her sister in a way that won\'t hurt her sister\'s feelings. See what your gut response is to this letter and what you might do in a similar situation.

 

Hello Dr. Ellen Kenner. How do I tell my sister Judy, who is 30 years old and has two kids out of wedlock, that she is making bad choices? She and the father of the kids, Mike, are not married. She is now cheating on Mike by dating Tom. How should I talk to her about her choices in a way that she won\'t feel offended or hurt? Thank you very much and I appreciate your help. Marianne.

 

Marianne, my gut response was you cannot hurt your sister any more than she\'s hurting herself. And if you focus on, Oh my God, I don\'t want to offend my sister, when she is so blatantly irrational, that\'s not going to help you in life. You want to train yourself to speak your mind, to focus on facts, to know your limitations - you\'re not in charge of your sister\'s life and you\'re not there to nag her or belittle her or punish her. But you also don\'t want to, by your silence, condone her irrational behavior. When she sees you and says, How are you doing? I\'m doing fine, and you know she\'s not doing fine and you know that her two kids are struggling and you know that there\'s a lot of fighting in the house, you need to speak up.

 

So how do you do that? Well, first you need to know that your sister Judy is 30 years old, she\'s a grown adult, that she herself, on some level, knows that she is making bad choices. Now, what does a person who is making bad choices over and over again - choosing to have kids when she\'s not married and she\'s not doing it because, I\'m assuming, because she just doesn\'t like the, how some people are essentially married but they don\'t like to go through the wedding and don\'t like to have the legal aspect there, but I\'m assuming that she just went and had kids and then she had one and another and now she\'s cheating and kind of making a mess of her life. She knows on some level she is making bad choices. But my guess is that she does not want your clarity. You want to sit there, sit and spell out exactly what she\'s doing wrong. You want to show her that, hey, the choices you\'re making now are really going to bite you in the butt in the future. When Mike finds out that you\'re cheating on him with Tom, you know there\'s going to be a lot of chaos in the house and it\'s not going to be good for you or the kids or anybody and you shouldn\'t keep doing this. Your sister knows this. She\'s not dumb. But she doesn\'t want you to name it. That\'s how people who evade, push stuff out of awareness and just want to go on the range of the moment, typically act. They just want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be able to have the affair, have the love affair, get the hugs, and not look at the long-range consequences

 

One of the wonderful skills that you want for yourself in life is with whatever big choice you make - I\'m not talking about buying an ice cream cone, but I\'m talking about a lifetime choice like having kids or getting married or going into a career, you want to think longer range. Not just how this will solve my current problem, but how will it look two years from now? Five years from now? 10 years from now?

 

Here are some things you can do. If your sister is inviting this increasing chaos in your life, you first need to focus on number one, enjoying your life, and valuing the fact that you obviously are making better choices than your sister, otherwise you wouldn\'t be able to get so upset that she\'s making bad choices. Number two, you can talk with your sister. You can say to her something on the order of Judy, I remember when I used to look to you because you were so thoughtful about, and then fill in the blank. I want you back. I want my sister back. And when I see you making choices without much thought, I wonder what I could say that would help you value yourself more? I don\'t think it\'s too late for you to change and make better choices and I also know it\'s in your hands. You can\'t force your sister\'s mind. It\'s not your responsibility. But you can pass that message along to her. 

 

I\'m Dr. Ellen Kenner on The Rational Basis of Happiness.