How to Handle Rude Questions

How do you respond when people ask rude and personal questions? It's a sticky situation. The Public Speaker Lisa B. Marshall offers some advice.  

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #315

Why do people ask rude and personal questions? Here’s a letter from a listener with this problem, and I think my answer can be applied to most rude questions:

Hi Lisa,

I live in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Usually I receive the following question, "When will you get pregnant?" This question usually comes up in meetings with family, friends, and even at work. People start conversations by talking about marriage, then ask how long you've been married. If any woman is married for over two years, the next question is, when is the baby coming?

I get annoyed because I don't want to have babies and as I am eight years married, society pressure is getting high. I have tried several times to explain very politely that babies are not in my plans. But then people, family, and friends start pushing, telling me that I must have a baby, that I'm selfish, that I need a kid, etc.

I'm just tired of this question and I think it is very private. I don't ask fat people when they will go on a diet or unemployed about when they will find a job and so on. I don't think I have to provide explanations about my personal decisions.

I hope you can help me.  Alline O

Sometimes Questions Are Just About Connecting

Well, Alline, you are more considerate than many people. You recognize a sensitive subject and assume that if the other person wants to talk about it, he or she will bring it up. But some people don't seem to think that way. They have their own views and apply them to other people, without considering how those people feel about it.

I lived in Panama (Central America) for several months, learning Spanish. I was married and had not yet had any children, and I used to get asked this same question almost every day. At first I was uncomfortable, but then I realized they were just trying to make conversation, that talking about having kids was just a societal expectation.

In essence, they were asking in order to show interest and concern for my future. I truly believe they did not realize that what they were asking was very personal for me. The motives were well-intended but. nonetheless. the questions were intrusive. I chose to believe that most people who asked were simply trying to make a connection with me.  Yes, they were misguided and awkward, but still just trying to make a connection. So even though the delivery was off, I tried to show appreciation for the attempt at connecting. 


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.