Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Butt Out in order to Connect

By Amy Phillips-Gary

It can seem irresistible.

Opening up your mouth and speaking your advice or assessment of a situation...

Even though you weren't asked for it.

Many of us stick our proverbial noses into the business of others and we are almost always well-meaning.

I know, for example, that a dear relative of mine cares about me and only speaks what seems to be true to him about my life and how I should be as a mother, wife and adult woman.

It doesn't seem to matter to him that I did not ask for this advice.

I myself struggle with this at times.

When my partner makes a particular parenting decision that is different than what I'd have done, it can feel like internal wrestling to just let him work it out with the child involved and not step in.

I don't always succeed in keeping my thoughts to myself!

The effect when I let my “wisdom” pour forth can seem discounting, mistrustful and even superior-- even as well-meant as I intended it to be. The original situation did not directly involve me; it was not my business and my advice was not requested.

We've all probably been on the receiving end of advice or labeling we didn't ask for and we don't want.

We've all probably also been on the giving end as we enter into someone else's life and affairs in an unwelcome way.

Of course, there is almost always love and care behind our words and actions; but ultimately, we just need to butt out!

Tricky business

When you stay awake and aware in your interactions with others, you can catch yourself before you launch into unwanted advice or other acts of getting into someone else's business.

But it can seem tricky.

You might feel frightened or concerned about the choices a loved one is making that don't resonate with how you're choosing to live. There is a chance your fears are warranted.

Notice when you get triggered by a situation that you are near to but not directly involved in. Ask yourself if this person is truly in danger or if the intensity of your emotions is linked to something inside of you instead.

This is an important difference.

There might be occasions when you choose to get involved in someone else's business because you believe that this is truly a matter of harm. For instance, if you see a child being abused, getting involved might save that child's life.

Most of the time, we butt in to situations that seem scary or risky to us, but they are really just examples of others living their lives differently than what we do.

Other times we get involved in another person's business in order to avoid something going on in our own lives. It can seem easier to dwell on the challenges in someone else's life than our own.

It can provide a false power rush to leap in and “solve” another's problems when your own challenges mostly make you feel helpless.

Pay attention to the advice you so want to give to this other person. It is possible that the solution or change that seems so clear (to you) for this other person is something you, yourself are being called toward.

When you butt out of another's business, you can be freer to more deeply engage with your own life.

Create Space for Connection

The more you dive down into your own business and explore those triggers you experience along the way, the more available to connection with others you can be.

You create space and possibility for yourself and for your relationships with others as you deal with your own business--
and continue to make that your primary focus.

From that place of ever-expanding space, you are freer to offer support to others in ways that will truly feel supportive to them.

When you encounter a person who seems troubled, you can listen and ask how you can be supportive to him or her.

From this exchange, a deep and meaningful connection happens.

Two people come together and acknowledge the inherent worth in one another's similarities and differences.

Two people listen to one another-- asking, giving and receiving what they each need at the moment.

This is the stuff of growth and expansion.

This is the place of connection and love where the world sits up, takes notice and is enriched.


  1. I have to admit, I love to give advice. What's more, it's also my job to give advice (of particular kinds, and only to people who've hired me for the purpose). And I try, as you say, to catch myself before I give unsolicited advice.
    However, I have to say that I also really like to get advice. Even unsolicited advice. I find it interesting, even when my immediate reaction is,"Huh? That's nothing to do with me." It's like a chance to see my circumstances from a completely new point of view.

  2. Rebecca, you raise an important distinction it seems. There is a difference-- for some folks-- between "unsolicited" advice and advice that is "unwanted" or "unwelcome" perhaps?

    It really comes down to the people involved having the courage, confidence and honesty to kindly communicate where they each are in terms of giving and receiving.

  3. Just got your pun-y joke comment Alissa-- LOL!