How to Deal With Inappropriate Questions

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

Trent Armstrong
5-minute read
Episode #85

I have a friend who has to deal with questions regarding a medical condition he suffers from due to a botched surgical operation. He's in constant discomfort and has to walk with the assistance of a cane. Because he’s a young guy, many people feel the need to inquire about his condition. This situation is tough. I'm willing to bet the reasons for these questions are split pretty evenly between concerned and nosy. Regardless, my friend is understandably tired of answering even the most earnest questions. In this situation where the questions are unavoidable, he's taken to asking them if they really want to know the answer to their question. Personally, I think that's a great approach. It will certainly weed out the nosy people and it counters an awkward question with a completely unexpected question in return—a great tactic for deflecting inappropriate questions. If you throw the question-asker off guard, they may re-think the types of question they ask in the future. “Why would you like to know?” works as a good, standard inappropriate-question deflector in most cases.

When an Adult Should Know Better

Okay, so the person asking the question is no child-- in fact, it's just a nosy adult. A nosy adult coworker who can't seem to get over the fact that you may or may not earn more money than him and he just has to know.

So, like, do you? Just wondering...

I think the best method of dealing with questions like these-- those prying, unfathomable inquiries into your private life-- is probably to just say, "I'm not going to tell you that." Place the emphasis either on you or that depending on what you want to communicate. Another effective method is simply to not answer. It's amazing what a blank stare can do.Maybe throw in a few blinks for variety, but not too many-- like salt blinks can easily be overdone, launching the whole affair well past savory and into the inedible,

Here is a possible scene:

Co-worker: I can't believe that you got that promotion! That's great, what are you making now?

You: <playfully> I'm not going to tell you that! Ask me something else.

Co-worker: Okay, where did you get those shoes?  

You: Maximillian's

Co-worker: Love them! How much did they cost?

You: <waiting in silence for the reality of the question to become evident to the asker>

Co-worker:  Oh, come on.  You're not going to tell me?

You: ... <blinking>

Co-worker: Okay, well wanna get some lunch?

You: Yes!

...aaaaaand scene.

See? Piece of cake. Of course, the other option is to just answer the nosy creep if you don't mind giving out that type of information.  I'd imagine that puts you in the minority, and it might actually encourage them to continue that behavior. So tread lightly. For most of us, though, we don't appreciate being asked to give private or sensitive information to people when it's none of said person's business.

I think as long as we remember to be sensitive in our question asking and try to mind our own business as best we can, we will err on the safe side of the inappropriate question.

Thank you for listening to The Modern Manners Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Polite Life. And thanks to Colin Smith of The MannersCast for guest writing this episode. You can find out more about Colin and the guys of The MannersCast at http://www.mannerscast.com.

There are transcript of this and all my other episodes at manners.quickanddirtytips.com where you can also find a link to my Facebook group.  Come on over, become a fan and join in the discussions. And don't forget to tell a friend about your Modern Manners Guy.

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