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5 Tips to Not Interfere in Other’s Lives (Why it Matters)

by Ali

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Some people have a frustrating habit of thinking they know what is best for others. While intentions are usually good, this attitude can lead to fractious relations, fallings out, and unhappiness. 

We can’t live other people’s lives for them. Sure, solutions to problems may seem obvious from our perspective, but we aren’t in the minds of others, we can’t possibly know them better than they know themselves, and ultimately, we have to let them figure things out for themselves in their own time. 

Let’s look at how to discern the difference between positive and negative interference. We will then discuss 5 ways to help you stop interfering in other people’s lives. 

Discern the difference between positive and negative interference

There’s a fine line between our interfering being welcomed and appreciated and our interfering causing hostility and frustration. 

If you can discern when to interject and when to stay schtum, you will place yourself in the optimum support position for your nearest and dearest and the rest of society around you.  

If in doubt, the general rule I follow is that if someone is at risk of harm, it’s better to interfere than ignore.  

Here are some examples of times I have interfered in other people’s business: 

  • A guy was being a creep to an unknown female on a bus. 
  • A neighbor’s dog needed medical attention, and they weren’t forthcoming with it. 
  • I spotted a shoplifter and advised the security guards. 
  • I initiated a difficult conversation with a friend about her excessive drinking habits. 
  • Called the wildlife officers over neglected cows. 

As you can see, justifiable interference is rare, but it does exist. 

The possible consequences of interfering in someone’s life

Take some time to consider a situation when you felt someone else was meddling in your business. How did it feel? 

Let’s be honest; none of us like other people interfering in our lives, yet many of us are quick to interfere in other people’s lives. Interference is particularly prevalent if there is a hierarchical dynamic at play. For instance, parents often interfere in their children’s lives even into adulthood. 

Parents who interfere in their adult children’s lives demonstrate deeply destructive behavior, which can be considered controlling and abusive and can lead to estrangement

Reflecting upon past relationships, I realize I have distanced myself from the people who interfered in my life most. They were the ones who forever criticized how I lived my life and were not shy in telling me how I “should” be living and what I “should” be doing! 

Too much interference will only create division and disconnection. 

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5 ways to stop interfering in other’s lives

Don’t be put off helping others in need, but learn to distinguish between someone open to your help and support and someone who doesn’t want or need it. 

Here are our top 5 tips for stopping interfering in other people’s lives. 

1. Control your urge to give unsolicited advice 

If someone is struggling, be careful you don’t jump straight into fix-it mode by telling them where they are going wrong and what they need to do. If it isn’t clear what their needs are, think of the 3 H rule and ask them: 

  • Do they want help?
  • Do they want a hug?
  • Do they want you to hear?

Before we learned to help others by simply sitting with them and hearing them, we likely tried to help through problem-solving. But often, we can provide the most help by simply showing up and listening and keeping our unsolicited advice to ourselves. 

Unless you are explicitly asked for advice, don’t offer it.  

2. Remember, you don’t know other people’s minds better than they do  

You don’t know the mind of others better than they know themselves. 

If there’s one sure way to feel disconnected and unseen by others, it’s through them invalidating our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 

I’m a female who has chosen not to have children. Most women in my position have self-reflected on this decision, perhaps even more than many parents did before they had children. And yet, one of the most common resistance comments we get from society is “you will change your mind,” along with a veiled threat of “you will regret it.” 

All we need to do is accept other people’s thoughts and views without making them wrong. This means no comments like “You don’t really think that” or “I’m sure you’d like it if you gave it a try.” sort of thing! 

Accept what others say and don’t try to change it, even if you don’t understand it or it makes you uncomfortable. 

3. Step away from the gossip  

Gossip is interference on a classic scale. It fuels judgment and sways opinion. It changes the energy between people and leads to assumptions and division. 

Gossip is a deeply passive-aggressive way of interfering in other people’s lives. If someone wants you to know something about them, they will tell you. If someone wants you to share information about them, they will ask you to. 

Before you speak of others, put it through the Bernard Meltzer test. 

“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.” – Bernard Meltzer.

4. Beware of your projection 

Have you ever noticed when you do well for yourself in one area of life, some people around you aren’t too quick to cheerlead? Perhaps a little bit of schadenfreude is showing up. 

You may have achieved a fitness goal or a weight loss ambition. You may have set up a small business. Whatever it is, some people will take your success and happiness and compare it with their inertia and self-perceived inadequacy.

Your growth and success shine a light on their need for growth and success. They turn your success into being about their lack of success. So instead of being happy for you, they pass you little micro aggressions and try and sabotage you to keep you small with comments like: 

  • “You’ve changed.”
  • “Oh, that must be nice.”
  • “Just have a drink; you’re so boring.” 
  • “You can cheat on your diet just once.”
  • “You’re always working.”
  • “Can’t you just take a break from writing your book?” 

Beware of doing this yourself. Allow others to grow and change, support their personal development, and don’t project your insecurities as obstacles onto their path. Otherwise, you may lose them! So, if you see someone around you living their dreams and taking brave and bold steps, be inspired by them; they are not a threat! 

5. Celebrate individuality 

It may seem obvious, but we all experience the world differently. What works for you or brings you happiness and fulfillment may not spark the fire in another. 

When we accept the individual differences of people around us, we quickly recognize that there is no right way or wrong way to live. Life is complex and nuanced, and riddled with peculiarities. Many paths lead to success, so if you see someone taking a different path than your own, don’t call them back or caution them. Let them find their way and maybe take this as an opportunity to learn from them. 

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Wrapping up 

You only have one life, so live it to its full potential and be careful you don’t try and live everyone else’s lives for them. Let’s be honest; people rarely thank you for interfering in their life!

Our top tips for how not to interfere in other people’s lives are: 

  • Control your urge to give unsolicited advice. 
  • Remember, you don’t know other people’s minds better than they do. 
  • Step away from the gossip. 
  • Beware of your projection.
  • Celebrate individuality. 

Have you learned the hard way of the perils of interfering with other people’s lives? What happened? What tips would you give to stop interfering? 

Ali Hall AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

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