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How to Deal With Inappropriate Questions

Are you pregnant? How much do you make? And other really awkward situations.

By
Trent Armstrong,
June 29, 2009

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Let's pop into the Modern Manners Guy mailbag and see what kind of questions you have for me today: Okay lessee... <shuffling through notecards> "Who was that? What were you guys talking about?  How much money do you make? Who's the father? You're not really going to eat that are you? I know we just met, but can you take my cellphone to the store and get it set up for me? Are you pregnant?"  Ooooohhhhkaaaayyyy... maybe we won't do any of those today... maybe instead we'll talk about what to do when you are asked an inappropriate question-- or a flurry of inappropriate questions, by a bunch of Nosey Nancy's.

There will be times in our lives where we will find ourselves in situations in which uncomfortable questions are an inevitibility.  Medical conditions, familial situations, mistakes we've made, these can all elicit questions that cause discomfort or embarassment and make us want to shout, "are you insane?" at the person from whom the question sprung.  So what do we do?

When Kids Ask Inappropriate Questions

I think that one of the first and most useful things to do when asked a question that may seem inappropriate is to consider that it may not actually be so inappropriate depending on who's doing the asking. Take, for instance, being asked the question, "Are you pregnant?" when you are not at all pregnant. Coming from an adult, that is a pretty nutty question and that person cleary doesn't value his or her own life. However, coming from a child the question takes a completely different place on the curiosity vs. self preservation-o-meter.

Even though the quesiton may still be "inappropriate", children frequently ask questions that are "risky" because they actually want to understand the world better. They are processing information as best they can and perhaps at this given moment, their limited experience and information is telling them that you might be pregnant-- so they ask. The fact that the child asked the question in no way means the parents are to blame for a lousy kid (though the parents may well be to blame for the lousy kid). The kid just wants to know. If you find yourself getting irritated in these situations, relax. Kids will be kids. Just laugh the question off and tell them “no,” or dismiss it with a joke.

There are also people who are, frankly, socially awkward and have no idea the question is inappropriate. There may or may not be anything you can do to help them see that. Shrug it off and use your friendship to guide this person to a more socially acceptable line of questioning.

When Questions Aren’t Necessarily Inappropriate

Relatedly, there will be times when you receive questions from adults that are not patently inappropriate, but rest uncomfortably "on the fence."

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