The Skinny – Amy Brunell

MYOB-CookieWhat you think, do and say…Is it any of my business?

Byron Katie asks, “What’s my business, your business and God’s business?”

This question is helping me to change some of my deepest core reactions. I wasn’t aware of how much I get involved with others business, who just instead, want a friend to listen.

The challenge is paying attention to when are you stepping off your own path onto another’s. With close family and friends, we feel we have the right to step off our path onto theirs anytime we want. Parents in particular struggle with the differences of guidance versus interference. When you notice someone who struggles with something, our inclination is to help. The intention is fine. But do we slow down and consider the type of help? Perhaps they want/need to figure a solution out on their own?

Have you noticed, like I have, that sometimes “on their own” never seems to happen? You hear the same difficulty over and over and nothing, nothing (from your perspective) changes. So you want to help. You start giving advice. Which most of the time isn’t taken. It’s actually resented. They resent you for pointing out to them what seems so obvious to you; seems so obvious to “everyone” for gosh sakes!

And I give advice for a living. So then it really gets complicated. People are paying to hear what I can offer to help them. But my friends aren’t. My family isn’t. And even though I was taught how to analyze EVERYTHING by my therapist parents, it’s still not my business. And I LIKE ANALYZING EVERYTHING. I like knowing why, how and what about everything. I feel safer that way frankly. It’s a world that I can understand and manage when I have my analytical skills employed.

If I’m not careful, my suggestions can come across as shaming the other person. This is a shocking revelation to me. Shaming is my least reason to do anything. I don’t want to shame anyone. I am horrified by the idea of shaming. Because any suggestion can have the underlying judgment that “I know better than you,” which can be further interpreted as “you aren’t as smart as I am otherwise you wouldn’t still be doing such and such.”

So when can we suggest? When do we step out of our business? When does the other person’s issues become my business? Perhaps when we see someone we care about about to be harmed. Truly harmed. Not just harmed based our own projections of our own life experience. Again, sticky. This slowing down and paying attention to your own projections is very difficult. Also, if the other person’s business truly interferes with the ability for you to work in your business, like sabotaging your efforts to improve yourself. Even then…sticky.

If we are deciding to step into another’s business, could we start making it a habit to ask the person, “Would you like to know how I see the situation?” Or “Would you like some feedback or do you just want me to listen?” And this is hard to do, because of the years of habitually just saying what we think. It’s crazy hard to slow down and ask permission from those closest to you before you jump in.

We can recognize that we are jumping into someone else’s business at that moment we offer any insight. We are out of our own business into another’s business. It’s important to acknowledge this decision. “I am jumping out of my business and into yours.” Why? Because if they don’t react well, we need to own our contribution. It’s our stuff. It’s our work. We need to recognize the more honest truth which is that other’s issues, drive us crazy! We get anxious around hearing or seeing the same behavior over and over that seems stuck in a vortex. Perhaps the other person is anxious as well. But it’s still none of our business.

I realized recently that when my friends repeated themselves with the same stories of difficulty, my tolerance level decreased. My frustration spurred my thoughts of my “right to advise.” And let’s not forget, I’m stuck in my own places as well. It’s not like I don’t repeat my issues as well. So I started trying to remember to ask friends, “Do you want feedback or should I just listen?” I’ve noticed with certain friends it’s easier than others. With family it’s also difficult. We have such old ingrained habits. I sometimes choose to see people less often because my business, now that I’m getting clarity, is about keeping my anxiety or frustration low. I can choose to hang out with the same old stories…or not.

I also have started telling my closest people, “I’d like to not talk about that right now.” Or “How about we talk about this for 10 minutes and then we talk about something else.” You are not required to listen to the same old story either. This is another revelation. I thought I was being a good friend, family member, etc, but I was getting worn down. And the more that I wear down, the more likely it is that I jump in without permission.

Lastly, jumping into your business seems so much easier than staying and dealing with mine. Mine is hard. Mine is yucky. And I like the distraction of not having to deal with my own stuck places. So give yourself lots of love and compassion for even trying to stay in your own business. It’s so tempting to step away.

The Actors' Gang

1 Comment

  1. Whoo Amy, that’s some tough stuff!!! Our younger son, who I helped settle into a new community near his first post-college job in the Bay Area, is home after one month – that’s how long the ‘gig economy’ job lasted. It’s a long story, but your thoughts are timely at our house. Striking a balance between my need to see him launched and on his own, and our son’s need to regroup after a difficult experience is going to be a challenge. Thanks for your piece; thought-provoking, to say the least.

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