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My older sister acts diffident when she e-mails me

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 50s. The way my older sister writes her e-mails annoys me. She always adds an excuse on why she has been late in responding to my messages, but I don’t think she’s late at all.

She says things like she “had trouble turning the gas oven on” or that she “couldn’t write her e-mails as smoothly as she wanted.”

I did once write to her that it’s not a problem and she can take her time writing back to me. But she still keeps on giving me one reason or another for not writing sooner.

I, too, occasionally apologize briefly. But since I’m not that good in writing e-mails to start with, I avoid referring to things not related to the real topic.

My sister became a housewife without any work experience. She is an introvert and tends to become diffident when she deals with me.

This must be because I used to talk to her in a demanding manner when I was young. I feel sorry for what I’ve done.

How should I respond to her e-mails?

R, Osaka Prefecture

Dear Ms. R:

It’s not easy to communicate via e-mail.

I wouldn’t be surprised if writing e-mails is a burden to your sister, since there was nothing like that when she was younger.

While we can send e-mails whenever we want, our recipient won’t always be able to respond on the spot. Adding the fact that your sister isn’t adept in writing them, she probably feels more comfortable adding excuses as to why she can’t respond earlier.

I recommend you let her write as she pleases so she feels less oppressed, although it might be annoying to you.

I’m also concerned about your feelings — for being sorry for her. Judging from the fact that you get so disturbed when she apologizes, you must be suffering from guilt that’s rooted in your past behavior.

I suggest you mend your relationship with your sister by talking over the phone or by actually meeting and spending some time together. I think it will eventually change your ways of communicating through e-mails.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from June 22, 2016, issue)Speech

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