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When siblings fight...

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Respect perspectives and communicate openly

When siblings fight, it can get ugly. And in some cases, it can get very public. I refer to, of course, the spat between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling. For those not in the know, the fight between the children of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was about the way Mr Lee's death is being commemorated this year. Mr Lee passed away on March 23 last year. Dr Lee accused her brother, PM Lee, of abuse of power in commemorating the one-year death anniversary, levelling a scathing charge that he was trying to build a dynasty. PM Lee responded that he was "deeply saddened" by this very public disagreement. In this article, we look at the issues that happen when siblings fight, and the impact that it has on the people around them.

A matter of perspectives

Disagreements come about because of a difference in the way a situation is perceived. The fact is, all perspectives are simply that - an angle in which a situation is looked upon. Every matter of fact will contain many different perspectives, all of which are right. But which makes for the defining perspective is up to the larger audience to agree upon. In the Lee case, we know Dr Lee to be a very private person, albeit her writings, which allow us to peer into her thoughts. To her, having so many public commemorations of her father - not former PM Lee Kuan Yew - just one year in is too extravagant. But to PM Lee he rightly says that Mr Lee is not simply a person for the family, but the man for the country. As such, the country should be given the opportunity to commemorate his death in a dignified manner. Perhaps Dr Lee is aghast at the number of such commemoration activities - more than 100. It may be a tad overboard for a very private person like she is. Who is right, and who is wrong? No one is. These are two different perspectives that got played out in a very public stage.

A lack of communication

Perhaps there was no communication between the Lee siblings about what the commemoration. After all, it does seem that Dr Lee has opinions that should be sought. Or perhaps they were sought but were later brushed aside for national considerations. After all, the Cabinet made the decision to allow for the commemoration, pulling the decision out of the hands of the family and into the government's. Whenever different perspectives are at work, the key solution is a frank dialogue between parties to ensure that all views are taken into account, and then a collective response is agreed upon. There seems to be little communication between PM Lee and Dr Lee regarding this, and even if there were, it may be a contrived discussion due to power differential. This normally leaves one party aggrieved. Because they know each other so well having grown up together, siblings sometimes don't communicate with one another as much as they should. They might not know the divergence of opinion each holds over time, and when each sibling assumes the other will back the person for a decision, may get shocked by the apparent lack of support. Communication between siblings is important especially when it comes to family matters.

Underdog backlash

When one sibling, who is not the decision maker but an impacted stakeholder, does not feel that he is being heard, he might take matters into his own hands. This may lead to tensions within the family. The underdog may lash out in ways that thwart the decision made by the elder, or more powerful, sibling. This may seem to be the case here if Dr Lee did not feel that her views were being heard and that she may have been steamrolled by a third-party, the Cabinet. Sometimes, such actions may seem unreasonable to an outside party, and the person he hurts most is himself, but this sibling needs to be heard, and the backlash will force the issue, to ensure that his views are respected and form part of the solution.

More than meets the eye

When siblings fight, there is usually more than meets the eye, and undercurrents may be at play. If the family does not come together in open dialogue, and resolve the matter through a free and fair process for all parties, and then take steps to improve the situation, this family will start to grow apart. And that is a very sad thing because the family unit is the bond of society, especially so for the Lee siblings. We don't wish for this to cause a fissure within the country's founding father's family. We hope that they can come together as a family, and work it out, as a family. Leave the Cabinet aside. After all, blood is still thicker than water.

Respect perspectives, communicate openly, find a common solution. That's what siblings need to do when they fight.

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