How to Respond to Uncomfortable Questions?


“How much do you earn?”, “Don’t you want to have a second baby?”, “When will you get married?”, “You’re getting divorced, right?”

Probably each of us has been in that awkward situation when a curious interlocutor really wants to get the information you don’t want to share. And then we regret about the direction this conversation takes.

Here are a few strategies that will help you to find answers to the trickiest questions and feel great doing this. If you follow our tips, you won’t have to struggle for words in a real situation.

1. Recommended by programmers and Sherlock Holmes

Answering tough questions, you have every right not to give the other party any particular information. Behave like a programmer from a joke – he gave a correct but absolutely useless answer when Holmes and Watson, who traveled on a hot air balloon and got lost, asked him a question.

– Sir, could you tell us where we are?

– On a hot air balloon, sir!

Alternatively, you could give away some general, but not very useful information.

How much do you earn?

Like everyone else. My salary is an average one in the industry. Significantly less than Oprah.

2. Mirroring

Return the question to the interlocutor. This can be done using two simple techniques.

Formulate your question so that the person whom you are talking with becomes uncomfortable about his or her question. Use a universal construction, which begins with the words “Am I right that…”, and its ending will depend entirely on whether you want to continue the dialogue or whether you want to draw your personal boundaries. “Am I right that you don’t mind being in my bedroom while I am alone with my husband?”, or “Am I right that your main problem today is my personal life?” or “Am I right that you are interested in other people’s troubles?” It would be nice if you say this in a very polite, quiet, and cold tone, without making gestures, except raising one eyebrow in surprise.

Boost the interest in a given topic by asking the interlocutor a question from the same category:

– When you are going to have a second child?

– And when are you going to have a third one?

3. “One-actor theater”

Having heard an unpleasant question, you can always imagine you are a great dramatic actress, look the interlocutor in the eye, take a deep breath, press your hands to your chest (you can even lock your fingers), depicting the abyss of despair, and beg in a tragic voice not to ask about that, ever.

The second option is to imagine you are in a press conference (like first-tier authorities) and say things like “Next question, please!”. The third option is to say: “That’s classified information!”.

4. “I am not a bore, not a bore, not a bore!”

Instead of getting offended, angry or showing that you are hurt by the question, start a smooth monotonous reply. The most important thing is details. Stick to the smallest details and start very far away!

When are you getting married?

Astrologers say that for a happy marriage, the lovers’ ascendancies should coincide (don’t ask us what it means — the cleverer the theory, the better. The main thing is that your interlocutor should have no clue about it). And when I know I have met my soul mate and am sure we are made for each other (we will have to specify the time and place where he was born), only then I will say “yes” to him. And not a minute earlier.

5. Crack jokes, it’s annoying!

My God, how much have you spent on this dress?

I had to starve for two weeks, but what wouldn’t you do for the sake of fashion!

Universal answers

  • “I admire your ability to ask baffling questions!” Or: “You are a lovely woman (amazing man). Do you know what I’ve always marveled at? Your ability to ask uncomfortable (complex, rhetorical) questions!”
  • “I will happily answer your question; just tell me first why are you so much interested?”
  • “Why are you asking?”
  • “Do you really want to talk about it?”. If you hear a definite “Yes”, feel free to answer: “And I don’t.” and smile.

If you don’t want to have anything in common with the person who asks uncomfortable questions, you can go a bit further. For example, respond: “It’s none of your business”.