According to University of Wisconsin research, 80 percent of all individuals spend at least a third of their lives with a sibling – and when siblings get along, the benefits are manifold. A strong relationship with your sister translates into an emotional support system that continues as you both enter adulthood. When you and your sister are going through a rough patch, it may seem impossible to get close to her again, but earnest communication can go a long way.
Focus on Feelings
Begin your sentences with “I” statements to communicate your concerns. Your sister is much more likely to hear you out if you say, “I was hurt when you read my email,” rather than, “You’re always snooping around.” Don’t accuse, and don't make generalizations, which usually crop up when you use extreme words like "never" or "always." Avoid being defensive. Even if your sister accuses you of something, try not to shout back, "I only did it because you made me mad." Don’t underestimate the power of an apology or a promise that you will do your best to avoid hurting your sister in the future. Also, know when to put a conversation on hold. If a fight gets too heated, tell your sister you need to step away, and state that you would like to talk more when you’re both calmer.
Work It Out
Once you and your sister have heard each other out on how a conflict made you feel, it’s important to talk about what you might do to prevent the problem in the future. The solution may be obvious: a teenaged sister who needs privacy and a younger sister who wants more “sister time” may establish a schedule so they can both get what they want. However, the solution may be more internal -- if your fight involves jealousy, you may need to remind yourself of your successes instead of constantly comparing yourself to your sister.
Cool It, Sister
Although it may be difficult, avoid raising your voice when talking -- this often causes the other person to raise her voice as well, which can be toxic. Don’t speak sarcastically or make assumptions about your sister’s feelings or perceptions: regardless of what caused it, if your sister is angry it’s unfair to tell her she shouldn’t be angry. Don’t allow resentment to build over time. Sometimes simple conflicts can seem worse if you avoid addressing the problem. Finally, if a feud gets physical, involve a parent or another outside person immediately.
Big Sis, Little Sis
Your and your sister’s ages will factor into the emotional maturity of your conversation. If your sister is very young she may not understand why she can’t interrupt you when you’re on the phone or borrow your clothes without asking. If your sister is much older than you, she may misunderstand how much her sarcasm hurts you. When age difference or birth order gets in the way of constructive communication, do your best to understand your sister’s needs -- and explain your needs. Ask questions, and be prepared for tough answers, if something is unclear to you. For example, “Does it bother you when I spend time with my friends?” may help you get to the core of your sister’s frustration.
Don't Go It Alone
Even the healthiest of sibling relationships can be difficult to navigate. It’s completely normal for sisters to feel like they’re competing with each other, have opposing needs and personal anxieties, and have contrasting temperaments. If you’ve tried communicating honestly and your sister is unreceptive, consider family counseling to get an objective viewpoint. Especially stressful situations, like a death in the family, drug or alcohol abuse or any other kind of abuse definitely warrant outside help.
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