On Family Members Who Don’t Get It

I’m currently planning a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, one of the many places around the globe for which the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning.  This warning has helped me plan better, and my traveling partner and I are taking security issues seriously.

Unfortunately, my sibling works for the U.S. government in a quasi-military sector that plans security collaboration with the military of Kenya, among other countries in Africa.  This sibling, with whom I have infrequent light contact, is also mildly overbearing (read: has real problems). For some reason he has taken a new interest in my life, specifically in my trip to a part of the world about which, he thinks he is an expert.  Mind you, he may in fact be an expert; I would not take that away from him.  However, I do not wish to partake of his expertise should it be real.

A recent message to me gives orders about contacting him so he can “get me some information.”  My response was as kind as possible, but also did not do as he requested.  I told him thank you for asking about the trip; we are looking forward to it.  It was an attempt to brush him off because I have absolutely no intention of inviting, listening to, or taking his advice.  It’s not that I wish him ill; I just do not need his help with this trip, and I do not wish to increase our lethargic rate of interaction for reasons that do not include actually improving our sibling relationship.

But his next response showed, once again, his true colors.  It orders me “please read again,” as if I did not understand his original request.  Why on earth would a sibling think this was an appropriate way to address his sibling?  Do other siblings give orders in this way?  Do they get the responses they are looking for?  I love the guy, but wow. He knows that I read and critique texts for a living.  I’m pretty sure he knows that I understood.

But part of me thinks, maybe he really doesn’t understand.  Maybe he thinks this is the way other people speak to each other.  He does live in a world of giving and taking orders.  But he interacts with people who do not live in that world all. the. time.  I fear he talks to his partner that way.  I fear he talks to wait staff at restaurants that way.  I fear he talks to our parents that way.  It kinda makes me sad.

For me, the problem becomes how to avoid getting into the fight he clearly wants to have.  I have no intention of attacking him, but it feels rude not to respond at all.  My options are limited. I could try the same tact and thank him again for his interest, while not giving the response he desires.  I could face his rhetorical blunder head on and explain that I have no intention of increasing our interaction level unless it means an increase of sibling-type exchanges.  Maybe ignoring it is the best way.

Of course, the added complexity is his manipulation of our parents.  He will tell them just how rude and hardheaded I am (the hardheaded part is true), and sway them to some belief that I am the problem.  But, I cannot let that concern force my hand.  My relationship with my parents is strong, and he does not actually intend to destroy that relationship, as far as I know.

Yes, I suppose I just have to pretend that three word message never came my way.  It’s hard work doing nothing.


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