Mind Your Own Beeswax

Conflict Management Blog by Cinnie Noble

As a kid, I remember using the phrase “mind your own beeswax” – instead of mind your own business – as a reaction to others who were being nosy. When I recently looked up this phrase I found several things, including:

“Since ‘mind their own business’ sounds harsh, if not impolite, the close-sounding word ‘beeswax’ was substituted. Those to whom the remark was directed might still get their noses out of joint, but somewhat less so than if the word had been ‘business’.”

“An interesting, although fanciful, piece of folk etymology tells us that American colonial women stood over a kettle and stirred wax to make candles. If they didn’t pay attention, the wax or fire might burn their hair and clothing. Someone who let her concentration wander would be reminded to ‘mind your own beeswax’.”

Another meaning According to Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper (2009) by C. Marina Marchese is that “the expression might have its origins in the time when people sealed their letters with beeswax so no one could read them.”

Though there may be other theories, the relevant point for this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog is that some of us become irritated when we experience others are “minding our business”, leading to a conflict. Generally, we might not care when some people inquire after and about us. However, there are times when it feels invasive and intrusive to be asked things about what we are doing and why. Or, it may be when we find out someone is asking others about us. Perhaps it’s when, or additionally, the inquirer is someone who we believe has no right or reason to know things about us.

If you have a situation that has led to conflict in which you have said directly or with your inner voice “mind your own beeswax or business”, this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog might be of interest.

  • What occurred?
  • What is it about your business that the other person is curious about that feels intrusive to you?
  • Why might that be (your answer to the above question)?
  • If you don’t know why the person is curious, how might you find out?
  • What reason for the other person not minding her or his business might reduce your negative reaction?
  • How might you describe the impact on you?
  • What bothers you most about the person not minding her or his business?
  • Why do you suppose that is – that it bothers you?
  • What is it about the person, if you haven’t said so already, i.e. who it is, how she or he is asking, etc.?
  • When you have been accused of not minding your own business – if you have – what inspired your curiosity? Why is that?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

Cinnie Noble

Cinnie Noble is a certified coach (PCC) and mediator and a former lawyer specializing in conflict management coaching. She is the author of two coaching books: Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model and Conflict Mastery: Questions to Guide You. MORE >

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