She stops you on the street and asks you how far along you are. You stare, and then realize your stomach pooch is making her think that you’re pregnant.
We all interact with nosy people who ask questions that put us on the spot and embarrass us. Even when it’s blatantly none of their business, we feel compelled to answer – so we won’t seem rude. When they ask how much we paid for our new car (how is that their business?), what surgery we just had (back off, will you?) or how much we make in a year (do you plan to use my salary information to negotiate a raise?), we feel taken advantage of.
If you want to politely stop nosy people in their tracks, remember you’re not obligated to answer questions just because someone chooses to ask them. These five strategies make it easy.
Set boundaries before the question comes
A coworker approaches and asks, “May I ask you a question without offending you?” The overtly polite wording of this might prompt you to respond, “Sure.” Except, what if the question offends you? Now it’s too late.
So set your boundary in advance by answering truthfully, “That depends on the question” or with a polite question-barring “You know, let’s not risk it.”
Fight fire with fire
You can divert the questioner by asking your own questions such as, “I’m curious as to why you want to know.” If your questioner responds, “Just curious,” you can respond, “Oh,” effectively ending the conversation. If you want to ease the situation, you can then further divert with a topic changing question such as, “So, what are you doing this weekend?”
Call the question what it is
If you’re asked a personal question you don’t want to answer, you can politely say, “Wow, that’s personal” or “Gee, I didn’t expect to be asked that” with a sweet smile on your face to remove any potential sting from your words.
An easygoing humorous response can make your questioner forget his question. For example, if someone asks, “How much are you paid?” you can answer, “Only a fraction of what I’m worth.”
Stop the questioner in her tracks
For example, if a coworker asks, “Why are you taking a personal day off?” you can respond, “Because I need to,” or “For a personal reason.” You can also back off a nosy person with a shocked or puzzled look or simply say, “Pardon me?” in a stunned voice. And finally, if none of these diverting tactics work, you can use the time-tested, “I can’t believe you just asked me that.”