Manners Matter: Business Consulting

Dear Mary Pat,

My little sister started a business and is in over her head. She’s always worked in an office, and this venture was a big leap from her former career. She’s a hard worker, but she’s making choices that may cost her everything. Even though my wife and I have owned a small business for years, my sister does not want our help. She’s defensive when I make a suggestion and even more so when my wife tries to offer her opinion. I see this ending in disaster sooner rather than later. How can I get through to her?  


Worried Brother

Town Withheld

Dear Worried Brother,

You refer to her as your “little sister,” even though it sounds like she’s well into adulthood. Sibling dynamics don’t really change that much over the years. Perhaps her unwillingness to listen might have more to do with how the helpful advice is given. Your intentions are good and you want to help, but ask yourself how you have addressed her. Have you talked to her as if she was a good friend – or more like your kid sister? When trying to get a message to be heard, tone is 90 percent of the battle. Give it another shot by showing up and asking how you can help. If you work next to and with her, she may lower her guard. Then if she really doesn’t want your help or advice, you will just have to step back and (potentially) watch her fail.

Good luck,

Mary Pat