Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Mind Your Own Business

Recently, I had an argument with a friend. She took sides for another woman whom she doesn’t even know. Perhaps her support is based on something usually referred to as “female solidarity“. I told her that she only pretends to know the facts, and gives me her opinion based on her assumptions. Then she asked for the facts. I refused as these facts are far too personal to share.

I shared this incident with the other woman who then said to me that she should mind her own business unless we call her for an intervention. Her reply to me basically is the modern version of the old saying by the French writer Francois de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680): “In friendship as well as love, ignorance very often contributes more to our happiness than knowledge”.

I don’t think that my friend was just curious (see my 8 October 2015 blog). I feel that she genuinely wanted to help solving a dispute between me and another woman. Nevertheless, her prejudice (also see my9 August 2015 blog) towards me had already taken such proportions that I was reluctant – to put it mildly – to share anything more with her. She clearly overstepped the boundaries of our friendship. Now we are a bit like two hedgehogs (NL: egel) trying to reconnect.

I think and feel that there is a thin line between helping and interfering when it comes to sensitive personal/private matters. Many years ago, I learned this the hard way. A friend once asked me for my permission to share with his wife my thoughts about how his wife criticised him in his absence. I suppose his talk with his wife went well – but not for me. I never saw her again and later him neither.

I have learned my lesson: I mind my own business now. Taking sides in couples’ fights is never ever wise – unless they divorce. In that case, you better take sides else you will lose contact with both. 

I just noticed a PsychologyToday article (7 Tips for Minding My Own Business – I need to change the way I think) that features the key to the solution: be less judgmental. Expressing judgement requires perfect information: complete, correct, up-to-date, authorised and so on. By definition you will not get such information, and especially not in couples’ fights. 

Professions like judges and auditors are forced to express their opinions in the absence of perfect information. Judges can partly resolve this by pushing mediation onto the parties but even they ultimately can’t run away from their responsibility to be judgmental. Auditors even face a bigger dilemma: the law requires them to be independent, impartial and professional but their clients – who pay their bills – may well prefer their dependency, partiality and ignorance.

Most of us are not auditors or judges and thus cannot assess the reliability of information. The more likely it is that information will be biased, the less judgmental you should be. In personal/private matters there is a high likelihood of bias, and hence it’s best to mind your own business.

PsychologyToday: “A final bit of advice. Sometimes the easiest way to navigate an ethical dilemma like this is to simply ask yourself: What would I want my friend to do if he/she were in my position? Would you want your friend to mind his/her own business, or would you want to know? Would you want your friend to talk to your partner first, or to you first? Think it through and you’ll know what to do. If you follow your heart and act out of friendship, you’ll do the right thing”.

Todd Rundgren – Can We Still Be Friends (1978) – artist, blog, lyrics, Wiki

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