Whose Business Are You In?

Essex Ferry

“The ferry shouldn’t be 5 minutes late on a regular basis.” Whose business am I in?

Being In Someone Else’s Business Is Stressful

If I think the ferry should depart on time, and it doesn’t, I feel mildly frustrated, anxious, agitated, unhappy. The world is not working the way I think it should.

That’s what it feels like to be in in someone else’s business.

Where’s The Line Between My Business and Their Business?

This often takes some consideration to sort out.

I’m not in the business of operating the ferry service. When I think it should be done my way, and I’m not in charge, then I’m trying to exercise power that I don’t have. That’s why it can feel frustrating. I’m in their business.

But just because I don’t run the ferry service, doesn’t mean I don’t have any power at all. I can be completely within my own business while offering my feedback to the ferry company. It feels fine inside when I do.

It’s even my business if I gather support from others who think the way I do and give that feedback to the company too. There’s nothing stopping me from being really convincing. All of this is my business.

But the moment I think they have to listen to me, that’s when I step across the line into their business. That’s when the stress starts. That’s when I stop respecting them.

Why Is Being in Someone’s Business so Stressful?

Being in someone else’s business is stressful because at a basic level I am disrespecting the other person. I’m looking down on them. I’m thinking I know better. And I’m trying to control them. I am almost willing to use force to change them (because they are not willing/capable of changing).

Whenever I treat someone poorly, even just in my mind, I feel stress.

This lack of respect feels like a hollowness inside. I can feel it from my stomach up through my heart. That’s what it feels like to disrespect someone. It feels awful.

I Caught Myself Doing This Recently

The ferry schedule doesn’t really bother me. I actually like that it leaves 5 minutes late! So that’s a bit of a hypothetical example for me. But here’s a real one.

Over the past few months of running The Work 101 course, I’ve become increasingly bothered by participants who don’t participate fully. I see the value of showing up day after day for six weeks: a momentum gets created that allows for a deeper experience of the course. When they would get behind, I felt frustrated.

So I Did a Worksheet on It

I wrote out all of my stressful thoughts about it, and when I worked through them, I quickly discovered that I was not in my business. I was in the participants’ business.

My business is to do my best to design a course that is user-friendly, clear, doable, etc. But it’s each participant’s business how much they participate: fully, partially, or not at all.

For me to try to control what participants do is actually disrespectful, even if I have “their best interest in mind.” When I’m disrespectful in this way, I feel that same uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and heart that I described above with the ferry.

The Work Is About My Peace

Once I noticed that I was creating stress for myself by being in the participants’ business, I immediately wanted to stop it. That’s the beauty of self-inquiry. Once I notice that my hand is in the fire, it takes no further thought to remove it from the flames.

And that’s what I did. I changed my internal policy. I was basically demanding that participants keep up with the course in order to stay in the course. But now I’m taking a less rigid stance. If someone gets behind, I gently remind them, but I don’t push them.

They still have to complete all the assignments to get a certificate of completion. That’s my business to set the requirements. But whether they meet the requirements or not is totally their business. It’s their money, their time, their life, their course. This feels so much freer for me, and respectful to them.

Respect feels like giving room for the other person to meet me half way—or not. I love that feeling inside!

Have a great week,

“To think that I know what’s best for anyone else is to be out of my business. Even in the name of love, it is pure arrogance, and the result is tension, anxiety, and fear. Do I know what’s right for myself? That is my only business. Let me work with that before I try to solve your problems for you.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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