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My husband is Indian and I am South American. We live in Europe and we deal well with our cultural differences, we talk and reach consensus most of the time.

It turns out that my husband's sister-in-law is a very invasive person (personal questions etc), she adds me to the family's WhatsApp group without asking if I wanted to (only for her show off) when I don't like that kind of thing and etc. We don't know each other personally yet. She asked her 10-year-old daughter to get my contact details (I really like children, so sometimes we played, nowadays no, a bit about sending stickers and such).

Not to mention the drama and the need to be praised. I feel choked up because I don't mean to be rude but it's disgusting how much personal content she sends, whether it's a dance or when she passed some exam, all this without me sending a message like hi or asking something.

My husband just said she has this character and told me to answer the minimum possible, that's what I am already doing. I've also already explained I am not used to sharing my accomplishments or what I am doing every step and such, and that I have learned in life we are the main stakeholders, I also already said that I'm not a heavy Whatsapp user. I even left the group, giving the excuse (very bad) that my smartphone was slow, so she started flooding me with direct messages, photos, and videos and even insistently asking if I saw it, almost forcing.

It's a surprise because she is a psychologist, she also lives in Europe. The impression I have is that she wants to create competition. Because a few times, around 3 years ago, I used to share the development of my baby in that group, about once a month. She took that as an opportunity to make comparisons with her baby who is the same age as mine. All that I have said nothing worked out.

How can I tell her I don't like her sending me each step of what she is doing, without creating a bad mood in the family?

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As a people pleaser, creating boundaries can be difficult for me and is something I am constantly working on. A tip from my therapist was to structure my boundary setting in the following way:

Compliment something she does that you like > Explain your boundary > Provide an inclusive solution.

Compliment something she does.

When having hard conversations, compliments can help to put the person at ease. Research shows that a balance between positive feedback and negative feedback can improve overall success. The Harvard Business Review showed that successful executives showed a ratio of about six positive feedback comments to one negative feedback. We can tap into this for your situation as well. There's a chance your sister-in-law is genuinely trying to get to know you. You can compliment her by saying "I appreciate that you are trying to get to know me" or "Thank you for welcoming me into the family."

Explain your boundary.

To set a boundary, it may require some reflection yourself. These were the worksheets my therapist provided to me to help get to the core of my boundary. Do you not like the type of updates your sister-in-law sends or is it the frequency? Is it because they are direct messages or do you not like multiple messages at all? It's important to understand your boundary clearly in order to make sure it is communicated well. It will also help you to not agree with another uncomfortable situation. An example could be "While I appreciate your enthusiasm, I'm not used to texting this often. I tend to view texting as a more laidback, asynchronous communication so, I don't respond quickly. I hope you understand and don't take it as a poor reflection of you."

Provide an inclusive solution

This was a tip my therapist recommended to me from her own previous experience. Adding an solution that includes the recipient of the feedback has helped me as the person setting the boundary to feel more comfortable speaking up. Because of your concerns about creating you a "bad mood in the family," this could help your situation as well. Examples: "How about we set up a monthly call instead?" "I can usually respond to messages within 3 days. If I don't respond by then just send me a friendly nudge." "I'll see if I can make Whatsapp work and join in on the family group."

Final advice from my own experience

  1. Practice with someone or in the mirror. If it helps to have someone who knows your sister-in-law, you can ask your husband. If not, you can ask a trusted friend or practice by yourself. It will help your nerves.
  2. Remember you cannot control someone's reaction. My therapist has ingrained this in me from day one and this has helped me to feel better when approaching a tough situation.
  3. You can control your own reaction. If you need to temporarily mute a message thread or ignore it until you are in a better mental space, do that.
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  • Take a look at the citation expectations, answers on this site should be more than just thoughts about what could work, and should be 'backed up' by either links to research or personal experience that give some proof that the suggested approach works.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Oct 25, 2022 at 7:24
  • Thank you for letting me know. I updated my answer to clarify what was my experience and what was provided by my therapist. Does this work?
    – Cozy
    Oct 25, 2022 at 15:13
  • I think it is good general advice. But I think it does not take into accont some of the things that were mentioned in the question, such as (from the way I understood it) that the 2 people never met, do not really have a personal relationship and (from how I interpreted it) is not something which the OP wants to encourage. Dec 25, 2022 at 10:36
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It seems that this person whom you never met is exerting a tremendous amount of pressure on you. Sort of a virtual bully. You have to either confront or ignore bullying. However, since she is family I recommend ignoring. Sit down with your husband and explain your frustration and misery and tell him you are going to ignore any communications from this individual. Explain that you are going to block her, delete any text messages without reading, etc. Hopefully, sooner or later she’ll get the message. (All messaging apps allow you to mute and/or block a sender.) Be brave. I’ve gone thru the same experience several time in my life and this approach works.

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  • Take a look at the citation expectations, specifically the part "Describing how it worked out is more preferable to describing how well it worked out: “these things happened, the people I was interacting with felt this way about it” is preferable to “it worked well”,". Can you describe which things happened and how the people you were interacting with responded to your actions, instead of just saying 'this approach works'?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Oct 25, 2022 at 7:22
  • This is bad advice. You are essentially telling her to run away from her problems, instead of dealing with them. Although it can prevent an uncomfortable situation, it will encourage bad character development on her end and it will certainly not be a solution, since she would abort contact to a person that is part of the family. The situation could heat up between her husband and his sister-in-law. Nov 4, 2022 at 21:46
  • Telling me this is bad advice is criticizing my opinion which has no place on these pages. If you reread more carefully this time you will discover that she made a reasonable attempt to get her feelings across to her in law. In addition, you gave no advice as to how to solve her problem rather you continued your rejection of my advice.
    – Duck
    Dec 5, 2022 at 9:21

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