When somebody asks an invasive question that makes you feel offended, you’re never obligated to respond. Consider these smart responses.
- A curious cousin: “I like your car/purse/home. How much did it cost?” Smart response: “Perhaps a tad more than I expected, but I like to pamper myself once in a while.”
- Your inquisitive uncle: “How much do you make at this new job?” Smart response: “I do OK” or “I’d like to make more.”
- Your snoopy coworker: “What was your doctor’s appointment for?” or “I heard you called in sick yesterday?” Smart response: “I’m just fine. Thanks for asking.”
- The chatty visitor: “You’ve accomplished so much for your age! What are you? 30?” Smart response: “Still young at heart” or “I’m aging fast just thinking about it.”
- A sneaky partier trying to estimate your age: “When did you graduate from high school?” Smart response: “When I heard Lucille Ball remark that a “man who correctly guesses a woman’s age may be smart, but he’s not very bright.””
- A zealous coworker who can’t stop talking about God: “What do you do on Sunday mornings?” Smart response: “I do non-work things.”
- An office busy body suggests a date: “Do you think you could ask her out? I know she’s single.” Smart response: “I don’t know. I’d have to think about mixing work and relationships .”
- A prying friend: “When are you getting married?” or “Are you guys trying for a baby?” Smart response: “I’m kinda private and would rather not talk about this.”
- A wanna-be Judge Judy wants to solve your parents’ problems: “When are you going to move out of your parents? When will you get a real job?” Smart response: “When my parents start talking to me about it directly.”
- An intrusive colleague who’s just learned you’re getting married: “Are you going to invite the deputy manager?” Smart response: “It’s up to me and my fiance.” You could add, “Actually, we’re having a small wedding. Just family and a few close friends.”
- A nosy new neighbor: “What heritage are you? I mean, are you mixed race?” Smart response: “Good question. I’d like to remain mysterious.”
- A perky lady in your yoga class: “You look great, how much do you weigh?” or “Have you lost weight this summer?” Smart response: “I don’t know—each time I step on the scale, it reads, PERFECT.”
- A snooping friend asks you to share a secret: “What were you and Sally nattering about?” Smart response: “Can you keep a secret?” and when your friend says “yes,” sneer and say, “So can I!”
You can try to redirect the attention or leave the conversation by saying: “Let me refill my drink.” But some people just don’t get a deflection.
Responding snappishly but firmly will imply that that the issue is not open for further conversation. “Why do you need to know that about me?” or “Why do you ask?”
If somebody continues to badger you, assert, “it’s personal and I won’t discuss it. Please stop asking.” Be as concise as possible. You shouldn’t feel compelled to give an explanation or justify your unwillingness to talk about sensitive matters.
Idea for Impact: Don’t Feel Rude about Quelling Impolite Boundary-Violators
Most meddlesome people often lack self-awareness. Others may just be making friendly conversation and may not realize that they’re being tactless and prying. Yet others tend to over-share the personal and inappropriate details of their lives and assume it’s OK to expect you to too. We live in a “do ask, do tell” society.
Often, though, people just assume enough rapport to be able to ask delicate questions. Spending some time with friends and coworkers creates a false sense of affability and trust that really isn’t there. We’ve all made that mistake!