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March 10, 2011

It’s None of My Business…Or Is It?

IStock_0ducking For as long as I can remember, there has seemed to be a pull for people to stay out of other people’s business.  I hear, “That’s none of my/your business” all the time.  For example:
•    One client comes into my office and says she saw her friend’s husband kissing another woman.  When I ask if she told her friend, she quickly says, “No. I don’t want to get mixed up in that.  Besides, it’s none of my business.”
•    Another client comes in and tells a story about her family on vacation in Florida.  Apparently her brother’s family was constantly yelling, fighting and snapping at one another in public and in the home they were all sharing.  When I asked if she tried to talk with her brother about the intensity in his family, she said, “No.  It’s not really my business.”
•    A friend was talking with me about her father-in-law’s emotionally abusive treatment of his wife (her mother-in-law).  It’s so bad that she has a hard time staying very long when she visits.  I asked if she ever says anything and of course she responds by saying, ”No.  It’s their marriage and none of my business.”

I could go on and on with countless stories of people staying out of other people’s business, but I think you get the gist.  When it comes to what is and is not your business, I have a very different take from most people.  I also feel very strongly about my take -- so be forewarned.

When poor behavior happens in front of me, I believe it becomes my business.  If I’m out with my family at a restaurant, or the like, and another family begins to make a scene, yell and scream at each other, etc. their business has crossed into my business.  They are now impacting my space, at which point I have the right to step in, should I so choose.  I do not believe that silencing myself and hoping they will settle down quickly is serving me -- or anyone else --  in that restaurant.  I also believe that my silence would send a clear message that the yelling is okay, warranted and acceptable.  But the yelling is not acceptable.

If I catch my best friend’s husband cheating on her, his behavior has now become my business.  It has become my business because it affects me.  I now have to either hold a secret, which will greatly impact my relationship with my friend, or address the issue directly in some way (speak to my friend’s husband or to my friend).  The idea that what he’s doing is none of my business is a crazy idea.  If it were none of my business, then it wouldn’t be affecting my life...but it is affecting my life.  When someone’s behavior impacts your life or your space, that behavior is open for authentic communication.

A behavior is also open for authentic communication even if it is not happening in your space, per se, but is impacting the life of a loved one.  For example, if your sibling seems highly depressed, is struggling to take care of the children and is starting to use alcohol to self-medicate—your love for your sibling makes their struggle your business.  If they died, you would be left to pick up the pieces.  Why in the world would you not try to discuss this with him/her? 
I realize my thinking is very different from that of many people, however I encourage you to start thinking about how the behavior of others impacts you.  Taking care of yourself is always your business...and sometimes taking care of yourself requires that you step into other people’s business or that you take care of the business they have brought into your life.

When you do step in, however, do so with respect and compassion.  Always remember that poor behavior is not a green light for poor behavior of your own.  Step in with a clean energy and stay centered.

Challenge: Begin to pay attention to the concept of “It’s not my business” and how it plays out in your life.  How do you feel when you abide by it – might you be taking the easy way out?  How might you feel if you stepped in with authenticity and compassion (for yourself and others)?

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That's certainly a different perspective...but it makes sense to me! If a person chooses to take their private business into public spaces, they forfeit all right to "privacy" and its advantages.
Embarrassing observers into silence by cudgelling them over the head with "It's not your business!" is disgusting and bullying behaviour. And it shouldn't be tolerated.

All this time I figured that a family member's excessive drinking was her choice and none of my business. I've allowed this behavior to be quietly swept under the rug.

Do I continue to sit by and watch her ruin her health, or jeopardize the relationship by saying something?

Isn't this an example of NMP - Not My Problem - since I certainly can't get her to change, or do I tell her that while this is her choice, I do not choose to be around her when she's been drinking too much?

Your post is excellent food for thought.

Thank you.

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