No matter where it happens—whether it’s at a family holiday gathering, the office, or among friends—being on the receiving end of a highly personal question can be jarring. Sure, the person asking the question could be well-intentioned, but their request for information that you’d prefer not to share can catch you off-guard (not to mention cause you to be annoyed or upset).
As satisfying as it may be to tell them that it’s none of their business, that’s not always the best option. Fortunately, the folks at Talking Points for Life have put together a list of canned responses to help get you through situations like this. Here’s what to know.
How to answer intrusive questions
We first learned of the Talking Points for Life website from the Recomendo newsletter, and after exploring it a bit, thought it would be the perfect time of the year to share some of their strategies for responding to those prying questions that tend to arise when catching up with family members and friends. They include:
Not sure what to say? Say nothing. Just let the question sit there. “A protracted silence can even offer the offender the opportunity to think better of their question and possibly revoke it,” according to Talking Points for Life.
Redirect the conversation
Use bridging messaging to steer the conversation—and questioning—in another direction. In fact, if you’re dealing with someone who loves to talk about themselves (or their kids, job, pets, etc), ask them a question you know they’ll be happy to answer. Yes, this means you’ll be stuck listening to them, but at least you’ll be off the hook (at least temporarily).
Have a canned response ready
This page on Talking Points for Life provides a list of canned responses to nosy questions—many of which involve deflecting with humor, or a smart-ass answer. In some situations, those can go a long way towards diffusing the tension; in others, they could make things worse. Use your best judgment.
Here are a few of their general canned responses that could work for a variety of nosy questions:
- I rather not talk about that, if you don’t mind.
- Can we talk about something else?
- I’m not really in a place/in the mood to talk about that right now.
- If you forgive me for not answering, I’ll forgive you for asking me that.
- Why do you think you need to know that?
- I’m discreet and loyal, which is why I can’t disclose that to you, but that means I also extend the same courtesy to you with the things you tell me.
Those are only the beginning. Check out Talking Points for Life for responses to more specific questions about marriage, having kids, gray hair, and more.