Views & Opinion

Interfere vs Intervene


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Today, I received an email wherein the sender was requesting for prompt interference in some matter, which would be highly appreciated. I was wondering how could anyone appreciate interference by someone else. Maybe, intervention was intended in that email! These two words are similar and yet so different. Both start with ‘inter-‘, meaning ‘between’. The difference is in the connotations of the two words.

Interfere has a negative connotation. When you interfere in something, you are poking your nose into other people’s business. You are meddling. The word carries with it the sense of obstruction or getting in the way of something. When I say to someone: “Stop interfering” — I mean that what I am doing is none of his/her business.

Intervene has got more positive connotations; it has the connotation of wanting to improve a situation, change things for the better. This probably explains why the Americans talk about their intervention in Iraq, rather than interference.

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There’s a thin line between interference and intervention. Often, an act of intervention is seen as an act of interference as the connotation is blurred, the intent is not clear. And so, may we continue to navigate that narrow space between interference and intervention.

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