How to Get Your Sister to Listen to You

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As teenagers or as adults, communication with siblings can be difficult because the intimacy of the relationship is so deep that manners often fly out the window. In an article by the Ohio Department of Aging, gerontology specialist Christine A. Price writes that sibling relationships evolve throughout the life cycle, with siblings growing apart in their early adult lives, only to come together again in middle age. If you want to strengthen communication with your sister, the key may be investing in the relationship as you would a friendship.


  1. Let your sister know that you're listening. The first step in getting a person to listen to you is to first listen to her. Once a person feels that they are being heard and that what they're saying has been acknowledged, that person has created the space to receive thoughts and opinions from someone else. While you're listening, avoid interrupting. Make eye contact, nod, and maintain a relaxed posture. The less defensive your sibling feels, the more likely she will be to listen to you in turn.

  2. Reiterate what you are hearing from your sibling. One major communication issue that plagues adults and children alike is misinterpretation. Sometimes we think we're being clear, only to find out later that the other party understood the conversation differently than we intended. In a blog post for Psychology Today, Elaine Shpungin, Ph.D., writes about using a technique called the micro circle to resolve conflicts between young siblings. The micro circle requires creating space between the siblings, letting each child take a turn speaking and asking each child to reflect back what the other child has said, then having the children create a plan of action. The technique can also be applied to adults.

  3. Let your sister know what you agree with, support, or see as positive about any issue you are discussing. In a Psychology Today article "Stop Being So Defensive!" author Heidi Grant Halvorson explains that in order to stop feeling defensive, we must remember what we like about ourselves. This works with other people as well. The more your sister feels you respect her, the more likely she will be to listen to you and respond positively.

  4. Phrase your comments carefully. Most criticisms can be phrased nicely; instead of saying, "You're a terrible listener," you could say, "When I'm trying to speak to you, it doesn't always seem like I have your attention. This makes me feel like I'm not being heard." Choosing to use the latter sentence opens up a space for discussion, and your sister will be less likely to shut down with defensiveness.



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