Last updated on August 1st, 2022 at 08:17 am
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People should understand boundaries but the truth is, some people don’t know when to stop asking questions.
When you read my blog post title, your automatic reaction could be thinking that you have to be direct about your feelings.
Saying things like ‘I don’t want to talk about it anymore.’
What if your personality isn’t like that?
Not everyone likes confrontation. I know exactly how you feel but don’t worry. There are other ways to approach the situation. Here’s how.
Strategies for Answering Uncomfortable Questions:
1) Switch the Topic Back to the Person
When you’re trying to meet new friends, I get that a question about your love life is bound to come out but this potential friend’s question really threw me off.
What you do is flip it around and ask her back the exact question. You can even add a bit of sass. Most of the time, the person probably wouldn’t want to share this tidbit of personal information either.
So why would she ask me that? God knows.
This strategy didn’t work? It’s okay. You can approach the conversation in another way.
2) Change the Topic
For example, if they want to know about your family and you do not want to share, change the topic. Doing this sends a sign that you no longer want to continue talking about this subject.
Talk about the weather or something so off-topic that it distracts the other person. The person will probably drop it and follow your lead.
3) Deflect with Humour
This is a method I like to use because it shows that you’re not completely shut down from the person just this particular topic.
How much money do you make?
You can jokingly respond to the question with these statements:
‘Ooh, you don’t want to know about that.’
‘If I told you, I would have to kill you.’
Laugh lightly and the person will probably be slightly relieved that you’re not offended. This will hopefully cause him or her to back down.
4) Ignore the Question
This strategy is best when you each had several things to say. You can pretend to forget the one question you don’t want to answer and answer all of the other ones.
It might not work as well if they ask only one question. However, you can still go ahead and use this tactic. Flat out ignore the question and bring the conversation back to where it was previously.
‘Where were we talking about again? Oh yes, we were talking about fashion.’
5) Answer Ambiguously Then Ask Them Back a Question
Let’s use the example of how much money you make again. You can say something along the lines of ‘not enough but I’ll work hard to earn more money in the future.’
6) Give Them a Cutting Look and Stay Quiet
This one comes out the most natural for me. We can be having a decent conversation before a personal question pops up.
I’ve had moments where we were walking in a public place. I literally stopped because I couldn’t believe my ears.
What works is giving them a cutting look and staying quiet.
They’ll usually get the hint and change the topic themselves.
I barely have to do any work myself!
Sometimes, I can’t think of things to say. I admit that I can improve with thinking about what to say back as a response but I’ve gotten better. You don’t have to say a single word with this strategy.
Use the silence to your advantage since silences are awkward with people you’re not close to. People who ask deeply personal questions can be ones that you don’t know well. That’s usually the case for me.
7) Walk Away When Uncomfortable Questions Come Up
Depending on how uncomfortable the question is, I have physically walked away from someone before.
Sometimes, instead of thinking about what to say exactly, your action can say it all. You are allowed to walk away from a person that is making you uncomfortable.
Putting some physical distance might end the conversation abruptly but it’s not that hard to do when you’re chatting with a group of people.
It’s not like you have to disappear forever but even excusing yourself to go to the bathroom is walking away from the conversation. By the time you come back, they might be already talking about something else.
8) Shame the Person
You might feel like this is a little mean but shame the person asking you these uncomfortable questions. They’re making you feel awkward so it’s only fair game. What, they can do it to you and you can’t do it back?
Here are some examples you can respond with:
- ‘You’re a curious little thing, aren’t you?
- ‘Why are you so curious about this?’
9) Being Assertive
This is the most direct way to avoid answering personal questions. You can say things such as
- ‘I don’t feel comfortable talking about this.’
- ‘This question is a little too personal.’
- ‘I’m not going to answer this.’
Some people don’t like being so direct because they fear that things can get awkward. However, this is the best way to get your message across.
There are people out there that are that dense.
They’re not going to get the subtle hints so by saying these words, you are effectively shutting them down.
I would recommend asking them something right after if you don’t want to get things to be uncomfortable. It’s okay if you don’t either.
Train Your Responses
In my head, I can say these things and know them but at the moment, your head goes blank and you don’t know how to respond to the person.
Your first reaction can be just actually answering the question when you don’t really want to.
Learning these tactics can help when you meet people that ask uncomfortable questions. This can come up in all kinds of situations where people are trying to get to know you including your first day at work.
Slowly train yourself so that these tactics come out naturally when it does happen instead of beating yourself up long after the conversation takes place. Or regretting what you said (I know because that has happened to me too many times!).
Remember, you don’t owe these people answers to anything.
Final Notes – Answering Uncomfortable Questions
I’m going to give some people the benefit of the doubt and say that their uncomfortable questions aren’t bad intentions.
Maybe they think knowing the answers to these will help you get closer to one another.
Or they have different boundaries than you.
For those who are trying to pry, you can be harsher with them.
Boundaries are extremely important and some people will continue to push you when you’ve asserted them.
You will meet people like this so it’s important to teach yourself how to deflect uncomfortable questions. I know that I’ll be adding this to my birthday life lessons next year.
I wish I can say using one of these tactics is a sure way to shut people down. Depending on the question and person, you’re likely to use a variety of the tactics listed above.
Now to You – Answering Uncomfortable Questions
I toyed with the idea of trying a new dim sum restaurant like One Harbour Road with this potential friend but now I’m seriously reconsidering. Should I continue to make an effort with this girl?
What’s your favourite way to deflect uncomfortable questions? What are examples of questions you hate being asked?