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Ask Ellie: Feel compelled to change people? Start with yourself

“Critics are eternal optimists. They just want things to be better. So be better.”

FEEDBACK Regarding the person often trying to change things around them (Nov. 12):

Reader — “I have some constructive criticism to offer as I am one of these types of people myself. I think it’s probably job related as I used to work as an engineer. I realized it was me that I needed to fix, and not other people.

“My suggestion is to order coffee at a restaurant the same way you would at a Tim Hortons drive-through. For example, ‘May I have a black coffee with two sugars?’ Or pose improvements as questions, such as, ‘What does everyone think about….?’

“It’s all about the delivery, removing expectations away from other people and holding oneself accountable for the inefficiencies in life. It’s the reader who could benefit from a moment of self-reflection to solve all the perceived problems.

“Critics are eternal optimists. They just want things to be better. So be better.”

Lisi — I love this last line: critics are eternal optimists. They just want things to be better. I think if we all remember that, then when we’re criticizing something or someone, we need to explain that we’re coming from a positive place. And on the flip side, if someone criticizes us, though it may sting, recognize they just want us to be better.

FEEDBACK regarding the sad sister (Oct. 27):

Reader — “I wrote this response to the woman shunned by her sister, ignored, even after several attempts to bridge the gap. She asked you if this was their foreseeable future. And you replied, ‘No, it doesn’t have to be.’ But you advised the letter writer would have to change.

From my personal experience, both sisters have to want to make the change because, like any relationship, it takes two.

“I was the ‘sad sister’ for over 20 years who kept trying to cater to my sister, with notes, good deeds and phone calls which were all totally ignored.

“We had been very close for over 40 years while growing up and raising our children in the same city. My elder sister was very privileged and stopped working when she married. I suffered physical abuse in my first marriage and was forced to move back with my parents. I worked constantly. My sister remained close and even helped me move away from my second husband of 21 years, who was mentally abusive to me.

“I met my present husband of 31 years, though I certainly wasn’t looking for another man in my life! We are extremely happy together and share my daughters and grandchildren.

“It was when my life turned around, and I found this man that my sister turned against me. Jealousy is extremely powerful. It seems my sister was happy when I was suffering, but as soon as my life turned around, she no longer cared about me. Somehow it empowered her to see me suffering which made her feel validated.

“I have many friends, a great family of children and grandchildren and am extremely busy giving back to older seniors who need rides, shopping and various outings. I miss my sister who lives nearby and regret that we cannot do the lunches, shopping outings and family gatherings we used to do.

“However, as much as I have tried and cried, my sister doesn’t even acknowledge my attempts over the years. She has walked past me and not even acknowledged me.

“Keeping a positive attitude, always learning and growing is the key to success. I am very sorry for ‘Sad Sister’ and want her to know that there are many more of us out there. Enjoy your family and your friends. Life is too short to try endlessly to change an unhappy, negative person.”

Dear Lisi: I have a new friend who I met at the dog park. Our dogs hit it off right away. Similar age and similar breed. We meet almost daily to walk the dogs and chat. We have a lot in common: both single moms, same profession, similar aged kids, etc.

The problem is that she has no filter. She uses colourful language often, which doesn’t bother me until she’s talking about someone. She has very little tolerance for even the slightest issue. I’m afraid of getting on her bad side.

How do I stay neutral?

Dog Mama

You started off by saying you like this woman a lot, and you consider her a friend. I suggest that the next time she goes off on someone, you can jokingly comment, “I hope I never get on your bad side.”

That should register with her and based on her reply, you’ll know how to proceed.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: ellie@thestar.ca or lisi@thestar.ca

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