DEAR HARRIETTE: Whenever I talk to my sister, we have some kind of an argument. She is older than me, and she just can’t help herself. She always finds a way to jab at me and make herself look better. I am so sick of it. But here’s the thing -- while she can be rude and mean to me, I have discovered that she brags about me when she talks to other people. I was shocked to learn that she speaks about me in glowing terms. Who knew? That made me feel a bit better, but it doesn’t change that she is rude to me. As an adult, how can I get her to quit it? I don’t like talking to her much because it’s guaranteed that she will find a way to be mean. -- Reset
DEAR RESET: Contact your sister and tell her what you discovered. Tell her how pleasantly surprised you were to learn that she had nice things to say about you to whoever it was. Point out how happy you were to learn that she even had those thoughts about you since what you typically hear from her is criticism. Ask her to be kinder to you when you talk. Tell her it is emotionally exhausting to talk to her because you know at some point she is going to be mean. Ask her to stop.
Then, when you are in conversation and she begins to go in on you, ask her in the moment to stop. If she continues, tell her you have to go, and literally get off the phone. You do not have to keep listening as your sister berates you. You can choose to pivot.