Difficult People – Interference from Meddling Meddlers

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Difficult People – Interference from Meddling Meddlers

April 15, 2009 Dealing with Difficult People Persuasion 3

meddlercolorIt’s MEDDLING WEEK here at Dr. K’s Blog.  Why?  And why is it starting mid-week?  Because for the rest of this week (and maybe the beginning of next), I’m posting about dealing with the difficult behavior of meddling, and the meddling meddlers whose meddling creates such a muddle for their seeming victims.  And I’m starting today because the idea of starting a week long series mid-week is disruptive, just like meddlers are disruptive.

First, let’s define terms.

Merriam-Webster has it as:   To interest oneself in what is not one’s concern. Roget’s Thesaurus has it as:  The act or an instance of interfering or intruding.

It’s a common charge when one doesn’t like what someone is doing, whether that someone is an individual, a group or a nation.

Headlines about meddling are commonplace:  Hugo Chavez Meddling in El Salvador Election;  North Korea Accuses Obama Administration of Meddling; US Scientists Fight Political Meddling;  US Official Has New Evidence of Iranian Meddling In Iraq; and so on and so forth.  And in every case, the offending party can always make the case that the same is true about the accusing party.  Whatever.

When individuals meddle, the motives assigned to them are pretty awful.  I’ve heard it said that they do it because they have huge egos.  They do it because they are control freaks.  They meddle because they think people are morons.  Bottom line, it’s a bad connotation and a nasty accusation, so when someone starts meddling in your affairs, it understandably tends to discourage any interest you might have in maintaining a connection with them.  But what if you could stop their meddling and build a positive connection at the same time?   Would you want to give it a try?

Then it helps to understand what drives this behavior.  And in keeping with my idea that assigning a positive intent to bad behavior makes dealing successfully with it more likely, here are a few possibilities.  Maybe they have unrealistically high expectations for you, and when you don’t meet their standard of perfection or performance, they feel compelled to jump in for your benefit.  Maybe they are trying to prevent you from repeating their mistakes.  And maybe, usually in fact, they just have too much time or money or energy on their hands and not enough to do with it, so they occupy their time, money and energy with you on their mind.

But no matter the reason, it doesn’t change anything to tell them they are wrong.  That just puts them on the defensive.  Nor does it help to bend over backwards to please them.  Instead, there are a few more personally pleasing options I’d like to recommend to you.  And I’ll tell you what they are next time.   Until then, got any good stories about people meddling in your business?  I’d love to hear them, along with any comments you might care to share.

Be well,



3 Responses

  1. gregg marchese says:

    I remember Scooby-Do as a child. Once the deceiving, greedy, unethical and dishonest ‘bad guys’ were captured, they always said, ‘Yeah, and we would have pulled off the scam fine, if not for these Meddling Kids!’
    At the time it seemed obvious that the kids would stop the bad guys. After all, they were doing something unethical and exploitative. But now I wonder–the kids were just traveling around. They weren’t actually members of the communities they rescued. Were they ‘do-gooders’, truly meddling in affairs not their own? Maybe there were details of the local situation they didn’t know about, like the scammers were just trying to feed their families in times and places of economic hardship, or were trying to protect themselves from rival gangs or local warlords. I’ve heard the kinds of people who judge and rescue called White Knights. Righteous, seeking causes to champion, needing to rescue to find meaning in their lives, disrupting in the name of Good and Right. Don Quixote of course being the poster child. I try to remember the Daoist wisdom I’ve read, that said: Don’t seek good to do, but when the opportunity comes your way, take it.
    So meddling can be muddled, when I shift from Right/Wrong thinking, to Perception of Paradox and Acceptance of Ambiguity.
    This gets into Secrets, too. If someone is being hurt, then it’s good to share the secret. It’s toxic to keep it. If no harm is done by keeping the secret, then it’s safe to keep. It might even be harmful to share it, a breach of trust. When is it tattling, and how is that related to meddling?
    I’m eager to see what more you have to say. Hey, I hope this big post doesn’t meddle with you in any way! This blog is great.

    • @gregg marchese, Hi Gregg, thanks for the comment.
      Ruh Roh…I’m not a member of the scooby gang, nor do I know much about it other than as a reference on Buffy. But it seems the question is this: is there a time and place where meddling is the right thing to do?
      Yes of course there is. As a parent, I meddled frequently in my daughter’s life as she was growing up in our house. From boyfriends to curfews to homework assignments, I was there interposing my views on hers and hoping to get a good outcome. I did try to be choosy about where and when I meddled, because I didn’t want to squander my influence through too much of a difficult thing.

      If I see someone about to do something damaging or dangerous, and I love them, I’m probably going to speak up. That’s because I had a few experiences where I didn’t speak up and something bad happened that i had anticipated. A friend scraped his head on coral, I saw that coming and said nothing. A friend lost his money on a crazy speculation, and I said nothing. So yes, there’s a time and a place. it’s just not all the time and every place.

      But as a Star Trek fan, I also know that ‘Non interference is the prime directive,’ that people need to make mistakes in order to learn, and that I can’t be everywhere all the time preventing bad things from happening to good people. So I resist the urge to meddle as much as possible, and prefer the same from people in my life. I like the ‘Daoist wisdom’ you offer, it’s a great guide to this.

      As to tattling – This often falls in the domain of ethical dilemmas, where it’s a choice between honesty and loyalty. And ethical dilemmas are value judgments we each must make based on our own understanding of the universe and the moment.

      My interest in my posts on the topic is to address dealing with chronic meddlers. And to that end, I hope what I say is helpful. I know that they are usually well intentioned. Doesn’t mean you have to let it happen and have a bad reaction.

      I hope you’ll come back and post again

  2. J.D. Meier says:

    When people like to meddle, I enjoy the free help 🙂

    I think it’s just a matter of asking the right questions, setting the frame, and using the free processing cycles.

    > they just have too much time or money or energy on their hands and not enough to do with it, so they occupy their time, money and energy with you on their mind
    Beautiful point!

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