Dear Annie: I live far away from my family, but try to keep in touch. The problem is my sister, “Diane,” who always misinterprets what I say.
Last month, for example, we were talking about Dr. Oz when I commented that we’d have to wait 20 years to see whether some of those suggestions work. That night, Diane told my brother that I said I wouldn’t care if she died. I tried to call, email and text to smooth things over, but she wouldn’t answer. My mom doesn’t want us to fight. I had no idea we were “fighting” until my brother told me.
A week later, Diane allowed me to apologize, and things were fine, but it has happened again. I suggested that we limit our Thanksgiving guests to the immediate family (24 people). Again, I got a call from my brother saying Diane thinks I hate her in-laws. I tried to contact her to explain, but she is ignoring me.
I am tired of being the bad guy. I can’t help that she interprets my comments in the worst possible way. How can I end the cycle? – Not a Meanie
Dear Not: Diane sounds as if she is hypersensitive and looking for excuses to be upset with you. One of the reasons she doesn’t tell you directly is because she’s still mulling it over, and it’s much more effective if she waits and then tells your brother her own version. Then she punishes you by staying out of contact until you are groveling. She has her technique down cold, and you fall for it every time.
If you think you can discuss this with her rationally, then do so. Otherwise, keep conversations short and neutral. If she becomes upset, send a sweet email saying you’re sorry she’s so unhappy. Then leave it alone. If your brother calls, say the same thing. Let her fight with herself. You stay out of it.