What I think of other people is none of their business

I wanted to follow on from the previous post fairly quickly now that you have had a moment to have a think about how much you take other people’s opinions as your own business.

Did you have a try at just doing your own thing without worrying about what other people thought of it?  Did you allow other people’s opinion of you to be their own business?

I put it into practice and I took my little chihuahua to the shops in her carry bag while I did a very quick shop for milk and bread.  She sat there in the trolley, inside her bag for hygiene purposes, with her head popped up having a nice old time.  A few people stared at me, that is ok, a few other people gave her a pat… better still… it made me and several people smile!  The people who didn’t like it?? Well that is ok, that is their business.

I wanted to expand on the concept.  This concept actually helped me more when I turned it on it’s head.  If I accept that other people’s opinion of me is none of my business, ergo, what I think of other people is my business; not their business.  My thoughts are ok to have too!  My own opinions are ok too!  What I choose to think on a particular concept is ok!  This was very freeing for me.  What took me a bit longer to understand was.. not everyone wants my opinion!

I had big control issues.  If there was something my husband was doing that I did not like (for instance, fishing… I hate fishing), then when I told him that I didn’t like him fishing, my control issues said to me that he should have to agree with my opinion!  What I thought of fishing was TOTALLY his business and he should listen to me!!!!

Read more in the book ‘Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want

Him being who he is, did listen to me, and promptly did whatever he wanted to do!  This used to make me very angry. How dare he?  How dare he listen to my opinion of his actions and totally ignore them and go fishing!  How dare he not take on my thoughts as his business!!

I look back and I can see the irony and the total anxiety that came with this.  I began to nag and push my opinions onto him until he got annoyed with it.  I had totally grasped that other people’s opinions (judgements etc) were none of my business, but I had not grasped the concept that other people also may believe that, hence my opinion of what they do is none of their business.

I began to get very stressed.  I started to think that he was just doing this behaviour (going fishing allllll daaaaay) just to get back at me!  He is doing it deliberately to disrespect me!  Isnt’ he?  If he loved me why would he do that?  He knows I don’t like him going fishing? (insert other behaviours that I didn’t like as time went on)

Eventually it clicked with me.  My opinion is my opinion.  He doesn’t share it.  What I thought of him going fishing was not his business, it was my business (problem/issue/whatever).  He liked to go fishing every now and then.  I had to learn to deal with my own opinions as my own business.  I finally destressed enough to see that he wasn’t going fishing to spite me or because he hated me or didn’t love me.  In actual fact, it had nothing to do with me at all in the slightest!  I did however learn to respectfully voice my boundaries and request that the amount of fishing reduce and he actually spend some of his time off with me.  This worked out well.

Read more in the book “De-stressing 101: Tools for Living a Stress-Free Life

I broadened this concept out to other people I had met or counselled.  I often heard the comment “If he loves me he will stop drinking/drugging etc”.  I thought to myself.. you know what.. he isn’t drinking/drugging because of our opinion.  It is because that is what he does.  My opinion can’t cure addiction.  Don’t get me wrong, as I stated in the last article, we must voice our boundaries, but nagging or guilting won’t change the world.

What I think of that person is none of their business, what I think of their behaviour toward me may be an issue for boundary setting for me, but my opinion of them as a bad (insert judgement) person is my business only.

Taking this on board will free us up to deal with situations non judgementally and with empathy and love for the other persons situation.  Looking at this concept from both angles allows us to leave the stress and anxiety of behaviour change behind.  If your loved one has an addiction to alcohol, THAT is why they drink (not because of you).  That person will drink until they stop drinking.  What are YOU going to do?  Voice your boundaries on behaviour, but nagging or judging or pushing them may not be the most helpful action.  Your opinion is your business.  Their opinion is their business.

I can often look at people’s actions and I totally disagree with what they are doing.  I have to think to myself what voicing my opinion will do to benefit?  Is it passing judgement or is it helping?   What I do understand now, I may give advice, but the other person doesn’t have to heed it.  If my boundaries are respected, then that is ok.

So.. nowadays, before I say my opinion (AKA: What I think of other people is THEIR business) I ask myself some questions:

1.  Is this based on my own fears from previous bad experiences? If so, it is not their business, it is mine.

2.  Am I respectfully communicating my own boundaries of accepted behaviour?  If so, then yes it must be said.

3.  Is it respectful to the person I am speaking to?  If not, then rethink it.

4.  Is this the right time and place to say it?  Am I too emotional to say it right now?

5.  I won’t take it personally if this person does not listen to my well intentioned advice.  But I will enact my consequences for behaviour if my boundaries have been disrespected.

Naturally this is always to be taken in context of risk to self and others.  Respectful non judgemental communication can be assisted by understanding that we all have our opinions toward each other, but consider who’s business is it right now if it is voiced?

What other people think of you is none of your business… What you think of other people is none of their business

Is this a concept you think will make some positive changes in your life?  I know it helped me.  Take what you like and leave the rest.