The Science of Minding Your Own Business

may_9_090516191-770x711“I wish for you the wisdom to mind your own business.”

Dr. Steve Maraboli

I recently had a visit with my mother in law who is in her early nineties. My husband and I arrived at her retirement home to find most of the residents anxiously awaiting meal time in the dining room. We made our way to her room and there she was, hair coiffed and dressed as if the Queen herself could pop by for tea at any moment, yelling at the hockey game on the television. Each time we visit I leave with such a sense of the era she lived in. “Times were not always easy, but people minded their business. ” Irene Cosgrove ❤

Let’s just take a step back there for a moment. Picture a man chopping wood to heat his home for the entire winter, his wife inside cooking up a storm, baking bread and canning enough peaches and tomatoes for the cold months ahead. All of the kids are contributing to the chores in some form or another. Now, how do you think it would have been handled if the next door neighbour showed up advising the husband that they thought his children shouldn’t be out so late? Or that his wife should be treated better? Do you think that the wife’s sister would have spoken up and mentioned that she was raising her children all wrong? People simply minded their business. Boy how times have changed. Now we are scrutinized and judged not only by our family and friends, but by the school system and complete strangers. All you have to do is open up any social media forum looking for support about breast-feeding or child rearing and be prepared to be slammed for a thousand ways you are doing it all wrong.

Where do we draw the line between our business and other people’s business?

We can be easily tempted to become involved in other people’s conversations, problems and lives. However, what you need to be mindful of is this. Becoming entangled in or interrupting personal drama that does not directly affect you can be both unhelpful to the parties concerned and can damage your own mental health. You will begin to feel more content with yourself and earn the respect of others if you learn when and how to mind your own business. This does not mean evading responsibility or ignoring important world issues around you.  It simply means knowing when it is best to avoid interfering.


So how do we accomplish this?

Method One: Knowing When To Step Back

Ask yourself if this issue directly concerns you or not.  A general rule of thumb is that unless you are an immediate participant in the personal situation, it is best to mind your business. Even if you are indirectly affected by an issue, that does not mean that it is about you or gives you the right to intervene.

Respect Boundaries

Always remember that everyone has a right to privacy and that each person is in charge of their own lives. You cannot expect or demand people to share personal information. You also cannot exert control how other people spend their time or resources. This comes into play in many situations. We may disagree with how others parent their children simply because it isn’t how we raise ours. This does not give us the right to intervene. While working we may hear of a co-worker going through a divorce. It is what everyone is discussing and we feel the need to give our input and advice. What makes our opinion necessary in this situation? Unless it is asked for directly by those involved, leave it be. We should never interfere in others’ belief systems, it is not our place.

Assess the risk

Clearly there are always exceptions to every rule. You should never be a bystander to situations that are potentially dangerous. If you see someone engaging in dangerous behaviour that is harmful to themselves or others, it is your responsibility to intervene. An example, if you see someone about to drive who is clearly intoxicated, do whatever is necessary to stop that from happening. If someone is specifically asking for help because they are suicidal, please make an attempt to get them the mental health help they need.

Method 2: Being Mindful of Your Behaviours to Avoid Interfering

Avoid the temptation to butt in

There will be times when a conversation or drama will unfold that you will not be a part of. You may be left out by choice. It is best not to interrupt or intervene. Resist the urge to place yourself in this situation. While being excluded can feel hurtful, you must realize that not everything is your business.

Don’t offer unsolicited advice

We all do it. We see someone acting in a way that just doesn’t mesh with the way we live our life and we start giving them advice on how they could be doing things better. We think our way is the better way. You need to remind yourself that everyone is entitled to live their life their way, and that does not make it wrong. It is also not your business. A large part of this is respecting others’ choices and space. If a person has welcomed you into their life, do not assume that they should live as you do. Let them live as they choose without your intervention. After all, isn’t that how you would want to be treated?

Avoid judging others

Believe it or not, it is natural to cast judgements.  We need to be aware of and curb the downsides of that instinct. When it comes to minding your business, avoiding snap judgements means foregoing the assumption that you fully understand a situation. Give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt until you do.

Support others without intervening

You should always offer love and support, and this can be done even while minding your business. You do not have to jump to the role of fixing all of their problems simply to be there for them.

Method 3: Avoid Gossip

Keep your distance or walk away

Gossiping is inappropriate and often unsubstantiated talk about other’s personal affairs. It is the absolute opposite of minding your business. If you know people are gossiping, the easiest solution is just to keep your distance.

Change the subject

If you find yourself amidst the gossip mill, simply try changing the subject. It will be beneficial for all involved and hopefully will steer clear of the gossip at hand.

Catch yourself in the act

If you catch yourself about to make a gossipy remark, gently stop yourself. If you do slip up in conversation, acknowledge that your comments were inappropriate and change the subject. Doing so will show others that you do not wish to participate in this type of behaviour and hopefully set an example.

Make a conscious effort to share positive news

Regardless of how you look at it, gossip is a negative way of spreading hurtful and often false news about others. A great way of being mindful of the situation is to contribute to the conversation by saying something positive and true about the person. For instance, if co-workers are talking about Michael having an affair, why not remind everyone about his donations to charity. Steer the conversation in a positive direction so that people are not always so quick to dismiss the goodness in people prior to their mistakes.

Set the example

You want to set an example that you won’t participate by not spreading damaging gossip, but you don’t want to seem self-righteous about it. The solution here is to be a leader through your actions and behaviour, not through lecturing or being “saintly” about it. This is not an easy task when you first start. It is easy to get sucked into the vortex of the gossip mill. It is how we bond with groups at times. Once you make the decision to want to end the behaviour, it will take some practice. Start small and decide that you will not become involved in any form of gossip for one day and then a week. Acknowledge your accomplishment because it deserves praise. Before you know it, speaking only about the positives in people will become your new habit.

We are all guilty of becoming involved in others’ business at one time or another. When one walks around with the weight of the world on their shoulders, we simply cannot focus on ourselves. Instead we are focused outwardly, sometimes intentionally to avoid having to face things we may need to fix within. Every person who walks this planet has struggles. There will be times it is just too difficult to deal with them and during those times we may find ourselves immersed in the struggles of others instead.

The problem with this is, when we are not focused internally, minding our own business, making sure that we are following our own advice, and making sure that we are living our lives truthfully and mindfully, we won’t be able to help others at all.

Much Love ❤


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