What should I do about being nosey and over-curious about other people’s affairs, because I suffer from this habit and want to be rid of it. I want to know how to stop being like this and how to avoid making this mistake.

What should I do about being nosey and over-curious about other people’s affairs, because I suffer from this habit and want to be rid of it. I want to know how to stop being like this and how to avoid making this mistake.

Being nosey, or prying, is a desire to know other people’s secrets and personal affairs, whether it is through reading about them, or hearing or speaking about them, directly or indirectly.

Prying is something wrong, both from the spiritual and from the social point of view.

People are supposed to respect other people’s secret and private affairs even within the family circle. For example, the father or mother does not have the right to open the son’s letters. The husband or wife has no right to fish around in the pockets or drawers or papers of the spouse. 

No one has a right to listen to words which are not meant for him to hear. We could call this ‘infidelity of the ears’.’ Nor is it anyone’s right to look in secret at what he ought not to see. All this is a kind of spying on others which does not befit a spiritual person…

Prying or intruding into others’ affairs, however, may be done openly, and not necessarily furtively.

An example of this would be a person who wears someone else out with questions about a matter that is personal to that other person, and about which he does not want to talk! Yet the nosey person goes on attacking him with questions, perhaps in great detail, in order to try and get everything out of him…

The nosey person may say, by way of excuse, that he has a close relationship with that other person, or that he wants to be reassured that that other person is all right.

But being in a close relationship with someone still has limits which one ought not to trespass against. Similarly the desire to be reassured about someone has its bounds. Finding out information does not come about through force or pressure. There is a vast difference between a person who wants to be reassured about someone, and a person who wants just to know, and to know everything!

Therefore, my advice to you is, not to ask, or if you notice a reluctance to answer in someone whom you have asked a question, or if you find him unwilling to elaborate further or go into all details of a particular matter, do not press him with any more questions. 

One of the characteristics of the nosey or prying person is his insistence.

His friends and acquaintances often try to avoid him and avoid his many questions and his curiosity to know their business. This might annoy him, and he might complain about it, and they get embarrassed about revealing to him his nosiness, and their reluctance to answer his questions.

The most embarrassing of situations is when the nosey person meets a shy one.

The shy and timid person is not able to stop him and may be unable to change the course of the conversation to avoid the intrusive questions. Thus he is cornered and becomes embarrassed. The nosey person sees this embarrassment but does not care, because he wants to know, and what is more, he even wants to know the reasons for this embarrassment!

The prying individual may not be content with just knowing the inmost affairs of the person who is before him, but may even force him to reveal the secrets of someone else!

Not only does he ask that person about his affairs, but he also asks him about other people’s. What that person said to them, and what they replied, what they did, what they felt in such and such a situation, how they behaved, and what their opinions were, what their relationship with the other person was, and about their families, their friends and private affairs … !? 

In fact, this may also lead to confessions in an embarrassing manner…

The senses of the nosey person always appear to be restless…

His gaze is never steady, but always brazen, never trustworthy, and he is noticeably on the alert. The same goes for his hearing, and his feet. He is never still, but always shifting about, going here and there, as he asks questions or listens, or worms his way into conversations which he has no claim to, and all in a most unseemly manner.

He may intrude in relationships which he has no right to know about, such as extremely private family relationships, such as those between husband and wife or between friends, be they men or women, or it may be secrets connected with work which ought not to be revealed. He may personally gain nothing whatsoever from all this, and he may well be unable to keep secret that which he has found out…

As far as you are concerned, when it comes to prying, my advice to you is:

1. Get into the habit of respecting other people’s personal affairs, and be content that all individuals have the right to have their own private secrets which they do not have to tell even to their dearest friends, just as you yourself have your own secrets. 

2. Always ask yourself: what business is this of mine? Do I have any right to interfere in it? Say this to yourself, and you will be spared the embarrassment of someone else pointing it out to you.

3. Set limits to how close you get in your relationships with others.

4. If, on asking someone about a matter that is personal to him or to someone else, you should find him unwilling to answer, or if you sense an evasion or attempt to drop the subject, then don’t press him further.

5. Do not try to read another person’s letters, or rummage through his books or papers, and if any of them should happen to fall into your hands, then show proper respect by not trying to have a look at something which is none of your business.

6. Be honest and upright in all that you see, hear or touch.

7. Take care about your friends and acquaintances, so that. you do not lose them through prying into their personal affairs.