Pakistan is the breeding ground for nosy parkers, and everyone wants to meddle in everyone’s business in the name of, ‘my intention is good, and I care for you.’ I was one of them, and I believed that giving unsolicited advice to others was my civil duty. The empathy I have in me for others was meant to be shared with my fellow beings via suggestion and inquiry into other’s affairs, and boundaries and personal space were alien concepts.

Training as a therapist has taught me many things, and I fully understand how annoying and unkind it is to interfere in others’ matters unless one is invited to give one’s input. I had first to learn how to take space for myself, create boundaries in all my intimate and professional relationships, and then reign my rescuer and not offer any advice or pry in anyone’s business unless asked to.

It was challenging because I realised that our culture encourages reaching out to our close relations repeatedly in the name of being there for others and letting the other be and giving space is perceived as being cold and dispassionate.

The usual argument is that this involvement in others’ matters is rooted in good intentions and care for others’ wellbeing. But people don’t understand that their anxiety gets triggered when they see someone else in a conflicted situation. To distract themselves from their conflicts, they project them onto others to show care and interest in others’ well-being.

Also, it is essential to understand that it’s not helping others by meddling. Everyone has their process, and a way of working through conflicting life situations, and your subjective view of their situation can contaminate their process for them. Another fact is that you are disabling them by telling them what needs to be done or interrogating them. Empathy is not suggestions and challenging others but stepping into their world and imagining what it is like for them, and sometimes just one’s presence is enough.

So my suggestion to a nosy parker would be to slow down when the impulse drives him into getting into others’ business and ask himself whose need it is, especially when his family or friends have not asked him to be part of their life situation. Why can’t he take no for an answer and respect others’ boundaries?

Whom are you trying to rescue, and is it serving the other, but it’s your way of validating your importance in another person’s life? Or is it rooted in a superiority complex of believing that you know better that gives you the right to influence others to follow the same path that you did? This saviour complex also comes from a disconnect from one’s inner reality. Research shows that meddlers usually have low self-esteem, and accepting that their input isn’t welcomed makes them feel rejected and hurts their fragile egos.

So how to draw a line with a nosy parker? Say no once. Twice. As often as it takes to send the message that you do not welcome their good-intentioned interference in your life. Please don’t fall for the guilt-tripping, ‘but we care for you, so that’s why.’ Care also includes respecting someone’s wishes. So, stand your ground and repeat the message as often as possible.

We owe it to ourselves to work through our conflicts in our way. Unless one is seeking professional help, I believe friends and family share what works for them with us and that in itself is counterproductive as every person is unique with his unique process in life. Just because the narrative is the same doesn’t mean that the way of resolution has to be the same.

So it’s time to say no to the nosy parker and tell him bluntly to stop meddling in your affairs.