We sometimes think about what kind of questions should be used, open or closed, and we often have to ponder how to answer a teaser question, but the most difficult ones to answer are invariably those which are tactless, unwelcome (and maybe downright rude). The worst thing is, there are times when you can’t escape and just have to answer. Still, you wonder what the underlying cause of such questions is. Is it misdirected curiosity or sheer spite? Why do sometimes family members and friends ask such questions? But the point is, how to react to tactless questions – whether you should put people off brusquely or try to be as polite as you can about it.
You can avoid answering by terminating the conversation
First of all, nobody can make you give a reply if you don’t wish to! The other guy may be simply provoking you or trying to make you feel self-conscious and awkward. Consider whether it would be best for you to end the unpleasant conversation.
On the other hand, if you are sure that it is no more than thoughtless curiosity, and you don’t want to be abrupt, there are several strategies you can employ.
Bystep the worrying question
Once you feel your private life has been grossly invaded, don’t get flustered. Instead, dominate the conversation and move away from the subject. Ways to do it? Point something out to your interlocutor. Draw their attention to a subject that you believe is more momentous. This is a polite enough tactic that gives the other guy to understand that you don’t wish to broach personal matters and they are being very tactless.
Inquire their reason for getting curious
You can always turn the table on the intruder and ask them why on earth they want to know that? This can sound somewhat aggressive, but you are perfectly in your right to do so. Merely mind that your voice sounds friendly and gentle enough.
When you receive the reply, you will know how to go on with the conversation because it will be clear that the other person is interested in you or wants to know about your experience with the view of discussing a problematic point. Now he or she can pass on to more relevant questions.
Then again, you may still want to discontinue the topic. In this case, you have other techniques to follow.
When you are facing a really tactless question that puts you off your stride so you are completely at sea, try and think up a funny rejoinder. A joke makes an excellent response, and if you need it, you can add as much sarcasm as you deem necessary. Measure them carefully, though: laying humor and sarcasm too heavily can be irritating. What’s more, you might be appearing unpleasantly clownish.
Put on a mask of indifference
Some of these nosey parkers are awfully importunate. When you try to brush them off by saying “It is a personal question” they press on to get what they set out to get. Either thick-skinned or over-self-confident, they don’t mind causing annoyance. Now that is just what well-behaved, collected people shouldn’t condone. They treat untoward questions with the indifference they deserve. Creating a cool atmosphere they set off their curious interlocutors as overly intrusive.
Admit your emotional response to the question openly
For those who find it hard to muster indifference, the opposite tactic may serve the purpose. Show openly your feelings that gripped you upon hearing the question. It can put off somebody who knows you well and doesn’t really want to worry you, or a person who you can’t move away from with good grace.
To use this ruse you have to be very direct. Explain that the time/place is wrong, you are not comfortable with this topic and even angered. The turn of the conversation has made you upset. Speak along these lines:
“This is a sensitive topic, and I am not ready to discuss it right here with so many people around.”
Make it as clear and decisive as you can. This should do the trick and make the other person more respectful of your attitude on the point. Although there may be people who are gross by nature or apt to put their foot in, you may not get much in the way of respect.
We can’t but expect that some individuals can actually try to make us feel confused or enraged, while others belong to a different culture that treats such questions more lightly or are simply socially awkward.
Counter with a question instead of answering
In fact, it is not the politest method, but it may prove to be highly effective. As for the level of politeness, it’s up to you to choose the right tone of voice and body language. As long as you keep your irritation/indignation in check, conceal your negativity, and manage to hit the right note in the conversation.
Put on your friendliest airs and, when they expect an answer, all of a sudden you come up with a question. It will revert the interactivity to the tactless individual who wanted to nose out your particulars.
Supposedly you are asked how your latest date went off, but you don’t want to be put to account by somebody who isn’t really entitled to it. So you counteract by asking, “Do you think we should form an opinion about a guy from one date only?” Or even go one further and inquire whether they know a pleasant spot for a date because success often hangs on the atmosphere of the place.
…or you can always answer candidly
An upright, honest reply may be a very easy thing to give – or most difficult. If you are generally secretive about your life, you’ll have to give it serious consideration because the information might get spread about to where you don’t want it to be. But if there is no secret about it, an open reply may be your best bet.
Also, when you face an impudent question, the other guy may expect to receive a detailed answer, but you can always fob them off with a curt “yes” or “no” with the barest addition. Or nothing to stop your saying that you merely don’t know. Even if it is not true. Formally you gave the answer, and if the other party is not satisfied, it has nothing to do with you.
Successful and fulfilled people hold their ground, go for what they want and adhere to their worked-out principles. They are also not free with their confidences. Many people are not to be trusted with personal information. When someone is trying to provoke you into public confidence, you can disregard the inquiry and consider the situation closely.