The first time I was told to mind my own business I was 6 years old. At this point I was living like a true child of divorce and into my suitcase. There was a family gathering at my moms house. By the time I arrived, liquor was flowing and everyone was having a great time. Now, due to negative experiences growing up, my father is venomously against alcohol. He has had many relatives fall into the bottle and never come out.
I didn’t know this at the time nor what alcohol was, but I was curious and thirsty so picked up a cup from the dining room table. I brought it up to my lips, took a sip and spat it out. Pouring the bitter residue all over myself and the carpet (I believe it was white wine) in the process.
My grandmother rushed to my side, I assume she must have seen the whole thing due to the lack of rebuking. I was still gagged at the vileness of the juice, so almost in tears I cried out, “What was that?”
“Mind your own business Zuva… and don’t tell your dad,” she replied, taking a hand and pulling me back to the bedroom with the other kids.
*All of the above has been translated from Shona.
“Mind your own business” is a common saying that asks for respect for other people’s privacy. It can mean that a person should stop meddling in what does not concern them. It seems the inability to “mind your own business” is sweeping the nation. From mansplainers to “helpful” friends, unsolicited advice is getting dished out more than dick pics. It is as if this phenomenon has gone viral.
I was taught young the importance of leaving alone the things that don’t concern me. Yet it seems like there are those out there who are struggling. So I have decided to take the mantel and write an easy to follow guide.
- There have been many times someone has had to tell me a secret twice. It’s not that I don’t listen, I do. However I never gossip so my mind filters out the unnecessary information automatically.
- I am amazingly unobservant. I don’t like to eaves drop into conversations nor do I enjoy listening to information that wasn’t given directly from a source.
- I honestly don’t care to know what is going on around me unless I have to care. I am too busy being depressed to worry about what someone else is doing, unless they need my help.
Step one: What are you adding to the discourse?
It is important to take several seats and ask yourself, how will the addition of your voice help? Will it help facilitate change or do you just want to be heard? What can be learnt from your input?
A lot of times people chime in when it is completely unnecessary. For this reason, it is important to be critical of yourself to the highest degree.
Many people (myself included) have a knack of inflating our worth. But instead, I ask you to discern whether your input is white noise.
Step two: What is your level of expertise?
What makes you a credible source of information? Are you spouting fact or opinion? Are you reliable?
Many times I have had people respond to my tweets who don’t even have a profile picture. Yes, information can come from anywhere; however , it is important to recognise how you present yourself. If you look like a troll account, no one will take you seriously.
The man who tried to “explain” vaginas to a gynecologist on Twitter could have saved himself a lot of embarrassment by keeping to this step.
Step three: What is your relation to the person/people
Who do you think you are? This is a common response I see when people bulldoze themselves into a conversation that isn’t their own. But it is a valid question. Who do you think you are?
Are you a friend, colleagues? Maybe a nosey neighbour? Perhaps you came across their post on social media?
It is important to assess who you are in relation to the people that you want to help. Boundaries are important and necessary but too often do I see people forgetting to respect other people’s.
If you will be crossing a boundary line to input your voice, it is best you stay quiet.
Step four: Is your opinion coming from a place of privilege?
Far too often do I see people sharing their opinion in a conversation that is bigger than them. You can tell almost instantly that this person doesn’t understand and can never understand because of privilege. Yet they still speak.
What is privilege?
A special, unearned advantage or entitlement, used to one’s own benefit or to the detriment of others; often, the groups that benefit from it are unaware of it.
In terms of social privilege, you can be advantaged based on age, education, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
For example, let’s say I share my sentiments about how I am tired of being called aggressive. Someone who isn’t a Black woman could come along and say, “Then stop being aggressive and people won’t call you that?”
However a fellow Black person will see my comment and think back on how this stereotype is one that is believed to have stemmed from the 1930s radio show Amos ’n’ Andy, which depicted Black women as sassy and domineering. Though it’s roots can be found well into 19th Century America, when minstrel shows, which involved comic skits and variety acts, mocking African Americans became popular.
During this years Love Island, Yewande was constantly called aggressive though she never once raised her voice. Yet Molly-Mae and Maura were allowed to be loose cannons with 0 pushback from the public.
You see, due to privilege, the person completely misses the nuances of the debate. Chiming in where unnecessary because the only people who know and understand the experiences of Black women are Black women. And Black people know, you only have to breathe to be seen as a threat.
So it is important, no, vital to know where your opinion is coming from. Are people being too political or are they fighting for their life? Is she whining or is that how it appears because she is a woman?
Step five: Say nothing
That is right folks. After working through each step, it is essential that you keep your thoughts to yourself. Shocking I know. But even after completing each step it is important to recognise that nobody asked you.
No matter your qualifications or status, if someone hasn’t explicitly stated they need your help, it’s best not to give it to them. It is 99.9% likely that nobody will die through you keeping your mouth shut. So do it!
That’s it for my guide. I know for some this is a completely foreign concept that may take some time to grapple. But I believe in you. Though minimal effort, it is possible. Busy yourself with other commitments such as working, housework, eating and even Netflix.
Remember to keep your opinions to yourself and mind your own business!
Here is my guide for true beginners. Filled with all the things I wish I knew starting out as a writer. I am also the editor of An Injustice! A intersectional millennial publication. Check here for how to join!