Difference Between “Interest” and “Interference”

Interest makes each other close, but interference makes them grow apart. It’s because interest is altruistic and interference is self-centered.


“Honey, which one do you think is better for my homecoming?”

“Let’s see. The dress looks a little gorgeous and the suit looks too formal.”

“There is nothing to wear except these.”

“What about this jacket? Neither distinctive nor heavy. This looks perfect!”

“But I have no suitable skirt for it.”

“You have this checkered skirt!”

“Oh, the color doesn’t match.”

“What about these pants, then?”

“I don’t like it.”

“You say, ‘I don’t like this, I don’t like that.’ What should I do?”

“Just forget it. I’ll take care of it.”

“You were sorry for me not to have interest in you last time, but now are you troubled by my interest?”

Both husband and wife became displeased. This is a common affair at home. Why was peace broken, then?

“Interest” is to understand each other

In 1924, an experiment was conducted on the relationship between brightness of workplace lighting and productivity at the Hawthorne plant in Chicago, U.S. The research team thought that if the work environment was bright, productivity would go up; and if it was dark, it would go down. Unexpectedly, however, productivity continued to increase, regardless of workplace brightness. The same was true for other conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and workday.

Later, it was found that the employees had worked harder, knowing that prominent scholars were doing research in their workplace. Based on this, the phenomenon of working harder when someone else watches with interest is called “Hawthorne effect.”

Man longs for others’ interest from birth to death. If you don’t pay close attention to the newborn, the baby is likely to be in danger, and the elderly too can lead a healthy life when they are in the care of their family and neighbors. Posting daily photos on social media and waiting for others’ reactions, or asking others about their own issues, come from a desire to be interested.

In particular, for kids, it is no exaggeration to say that they feed on the attention of their parents. Experts say that the reason children say “I love you” to their parents is because they want to hear “I love you.” When children feel lack of attention from their parents, they pester, lie, or act unpredictably to draw attention. Children who receive enough attention from their parents rarely pester their parents for sweets or toys, but rather try to do what pleases their parents though it is hard to do. Adolescents who want to behave in their own way also want to receive interest and comfort about their concerns and choices.

Showing interest is the best way to have good relationships. Interest makes a dry personality lively and makes the person who closed his mind open it. It is not a great act that makes a relationship good, but a kind word, a sincere smile, and a little interest that asks, “How was your day?” When showing interest this way, both can understand each other.

Most people like to talk about themselves and feel good about those who show interest in them. If you want to receive attention from others, first show your interest in the other person. As soon as indifference turns to interest, you will discover new things you haven’t seen before.

“Interference” is wrong interest

When you have affection for someone, you want that person to be like you; you are satisfied when he has the same thoughts and actions as yours. The mistake you are likely to make while pursuing homogeneity is interference. This is especially true among family members. Between parents and a child or between a husband and wife, they claim to tell their opinions, but it often ends up with interference.

The problem is that interference causes resistance and conflict instead of positive responses. While people have a desire to receive attention from others, they also have a desire for independence and autonomy in thinking and deciding for themselves. If someone minds or interferes with your work, you will be displeased. Therefore, you need to have interest as much as the other person does not feel pressured and uncomfortable.

The reason the aforementioned wife was offended in the conversation with her husband was that she felt husband’s reaction was not an interest but interference. The husband tried to pick out his wife’s clothes with interest, but was displeased when his opinion was not accepted, and he eventually blamed on his wife and became angry with her. If you grow upset when things don’t go as you please, it proves that you are interfering.

Interest puts others’ minds first, but interference puts your situation first. Interference is that you don’t understand the other person’s mind but want him to do what you expect, trying to change his mind and deeds. Interference is based on the belief that ‘I am right,’ which makes you keep asserting your own opinions with impatience and distrust, saying, “Why don’t you do this way?” or “I know because I tried it before,” or “You’ll regret it later.”

In fact, it is not easy to clearly distinguish between interest and interference; because there is difference among people in accepting the same words and actions, and even the same person’s judgments vary, depending on circumstances and emotions. Communication is relative; even though you show your interest with good will, the other person may accept it as interference. When the other person regards it as interest, it can be a real interest.

If you do not regard others’ interference as uncomfortable but think that it will be helpful someday, you will be less reluctant to it. Wouldn’t the situation have changed if the wife appreciated her husband’s words of interest?

How to show your sincere interest

The important thing is how to show your sincere interest to the other person. If your pure and loving heart to the person you treasure is distorted and regarded as interference, how frustrating it will be! Psychologist Erich Pinchas Fromm said,

“If a woman told us that she loved flowers, and we saw that she forgot to water them, we would not believe in her ‘love’ for flowers. Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.”

As he says, concern is love. It is said, “The antonym of love is not hatred, but indifference.” In other words, concern or interest is to give your time with a loving heart and paying attention; it is to “please the other person.” To do this, first of all, you need to feel the other person’s pulse with open eyes and ears and fathom him. If you are interested in someone, you will want to know about him. You can please him by knowing what he likes and dislikes, what he is happy at and hurt by, and what he’s interested in. If you say you love someone and don’t know what he wants, your interest in him can be burdensome or harmful to him.

Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Listen carefully when the other person speaks, and give your opinion only when he needs your advice. Even if the other person rejects your opinion, be ready to accept it. You should put aside the thought, ‘I am right’ and think, ‘You, too, are right.’ Ask questions that the other person can answer happily, and talk about the topics he is interested in. At this moment, a smiling face is a must.

Interest should be expressed as interest, not as coercion or anger. When your child comes home late, avoid saying, “Where were you? Why do you come in now?” But if you ask with a gentle voice, “I was worried because you didn’t come in time. What happened?” the child feels that his parents have interest in him and are concerned about him.

In order for sincere concern not to be conveyed as harsh interference, respect and careful consideration are needed. Mind is important, and so is the expression. Words of interest may sound interference, depending on the tone of the speaker. Don’t forget that sincere interest starts with concern about the other person.

A Korean saying goes, “The rice in the paddy grows, listening to the farmer’s footsteps.” It means that even crops grow well when they are cared. However, farmers should just watch them after doing what they can do, such as sowing, weeding, and applying fertilizer in time. Farmers must not pull crops for fast growth or force them to grow quickly. Like the process of growing crops, patience that waits with belief also falls under the category of interest.

The closer you are to someone, the more you pay attention to him; but you need to acknowledge each other’s will in order to keep the relationship in a healthy way. The purpose of parenting is not for parents to control their children as they wish, but to grow them as right and independent beings; and love between a husband and wife can last when they respect each other’s differences.

Let us look back to see if we’ve been indifferent to our family, or have interfered too much, or sometimes have drawn a line, regarding interest as interference. The expression of warm-hearted interest with mutual understanding and consideration is the actualization of love.