Make us your home page

Tell Me About It: Ask sister questions without offering opinions

Asking sister the right questions better than offering opinions

Q: I usually hold my tongue when it comes to dishing out unsolicited advice, but I'm curious about whether that policy holds when it comes to someone I love.

My sister is a wonderful person in many ways, but she has trouble dating men for longer than a few weeks. I have a few theories: She thinks she comes off as loose and carefree, when actually she exudes how high-strung and sensitive she really is; and her default conversational topic is complaining about other people.

Would a caring sister say, "I know you haven't asked my opinion, but maybe if you tried to find other conversation topics" or "If you let the little things the guy said or did wrong go, you'd find more of what you're looking for"? Or do I just say nothing, remain supportive and offer my opinion if she does ask for it?


A: I'm also not sure what you'd accomplish with your theories except to put your sister on the defensive. Silence isn't the only alternative, but what you propose is close to suggesting she change her temperament and personality, when what you want is to actually help her.

One way to avoid the unsolicited trap and remain realistic is to wait until she complains, then ask her what she thinks went wrong.

Ideally, some prompts will get her thinking, plus the ideas will be hers and so automatically less painful. Best of all, you can wade in gently with questions and back away if it doesn't work. With blurting out an opinion, there's no taking it back.

Tell Me About It: Ask sister questions without offering opinions 10/28/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 11:42am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post Writers Group.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours