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Mind your own business!

I was a child the first time I heard that retort. I was leaning toward two girls in a tête-à-tête, straining to hear their whispered conversation. I understood the clapback immediately: I was prying into things that did not concern me.

How, then, does it make sense to apply the concept of minding my own business when it comes to my loved ones

This is what my friend and fellow Wayfinder Master Coach Rebecca Mullen wanted to talk to me about on her wonderful podcast, Habits for Your Happily Ever After.

Rebecca is a relationship coach, and her clients struggle with “business.” “Surely, my husband’s affairs concern me,” they say. (We talked about partners in this episode). 

“Surely, I am at least partly responsible for my children’s ‘business.’” (We talked about kids in this one). 

“And furthermore, if I’m out of my loved one’s business, doesn’t that mean I don’t care?”

The truth is that Rebecca’s clients aren’t the only ones who struggle with it. I teach Wayfinder Life Coach trainees who struggle with it. I struggle with it.

The good news is, after talking about it so much recently, and after doing The Work yet again to get out of my children’s business, I finally, deeply understand the issue. In this post, I’ll share my insights into the confusion at the root of the struggle and the tender opposite of being in your loved one’s business.

The Confusion at the Root

But if I’m not in their business, it means I don’t care.

No. Caring and being in their business are two different things. 

I think this confusion arises because “business” in the childhood playground context and “business” in the coaching context are “false friends” – same word, different meaning.

On the playground, if something isn’t your business, it isn’t your concern, so back away. You’re not wanted. 

In coaching, business is defined as thoughts, words, feelings, and actions: your business is everything that you think, say, feel, and do; my business is everything that I think, say, feel, and do. I can care for you without inserting myself into your business – without trying to manipulate what you think, say, feel, and do through my advice or actions.

So: If I’m in my loved one’s business, it means I think I know better than they do, and I trust my own judgments more than I trust them.

Feel the Difference

To understand this, put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. When have you experienced someone well-meaning being in your business – maybe a parent telling you what to do or your partner correcting the way you’re handling something? How does it feel? Does it feel like love, or does it feel like control?

To mind your own business means understanding that your judgments are for you to live, and you are the only one you have to manage. 

When you get out of their business, you abandon not your loved one but your judgments of your loved one. You abandon management, manipulation, and control. You abandon thinking you know better and trying to change them or do for them. 

When you do, you can be present for the person instead of for your judgments.

The Tender Opposite

The tender opposite of being in your loved one’s business is being present.

Have you ever experienced presence – someone caring for you while not trying or even desiring to control you? How does it feel? To me it feels exquisite. Better than caring, it is unconditional love.

Trying to control others can work in the short term, but it’s effortful, the returns diminish over time, and it erodes the relationship. In contrast, getting out of your loved ones’ business is easier, makes you more influential, and builds your relationships.

It’s like the difference between organizing a pile of iron filings with your fingers or organizing them with a magnet. When you stay in your own business and out of theirs – imperfectly, to be sure, but diligently – you will be magnetic. It will feel good to be with you, and they will trust you. With you, they will trust themselves more, too, and feel more confident – confident enough, maybe, to ask your advice! 

Try It

Wonderfully, the key to ending the confusion is in the word itself. Business. Busy-ness. The opposite of busy-ness is presence.

The next time your loved one is struggling, mind your own busy-ness and experiment with presence. Listen to them without advising. Believe in their resourcefulness without helping. What happens?

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