Last updated on December 28th, 2022 at 10:40 am
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We’ve all experienced moments where we had to answer some pretty uncomfortable questions.
People should understand boundaries but the truth is, some people don’t know when to stop.
When you think about answering uncomfortable questions, the obvious answer is directly telling the other person ‘you don’t want to talk about it anymore,’ but not everyone’s personality is confrontational.
Thankfully, there are other ways to approach the situation. Here’s how:
Strategies for Answering Uncomfortable Questions:
1) Switch the Topic Back to the Person
If someone is asking you an uncomfortable question, flip it around and ask them back the exact question. You can even add a bit of sass.
Sometimes, people ask a question without carefully considering the implications. By asking them back the same question, the other person might realize their mistake and back up.
They might realize they don’t want to share this tidbit of personal information either.
If they have self-awareness, they will realize they’ve made you uncomfortable.
This strategy didn’t work? It’s okay. You can approach the conversation in another way.
2) Change the Topic
Changing the topic will send 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.
For example, someone might ask you how much money you make.
You can jokingly respond to the question with something like:
‘Ooh, you don’t want to know about that.’
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 works best when it’s halfway through a conversation and the other party asked you several questions.
You can pretend to forget that question you don’t want to answer and answer all of their other ones.
The person might even forget he or she asked an uncomfortable question. There’s plenty of other information to go off of to make the conversation flow.
This method does not work as well if they ask you 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
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.’
You can then follow up with a question and ask why they’re so curious.
Doing this will give them more time to realize that you are trying to avoid answering uncomfortable questions.
It might even make them question themselves why they asked you that question.
6) Give Them a Cutting Look and Stay Quiet
This one works well because your eyes are doing all the talking but you’re not actually saying anything.
Give them the cutting look then stay quiet.
Sometimes, you can’t think of what to say at the moment. I know because I’m like that.
Use the silence to your advantage. Silences are especially awkward with people you’re not close to.
They’ll usually get the hint and change the topic themselves. You barely have to do any work myself!
7) Walk Away When Uncomfortable Questions Come Up
Depending on how uncomfortable the question is, you can physically walk away from the conversation.
If you’re not the best at coming up with responses on the spot, this is another method that would work.
You are allowed to walk away from a person that is making you uncomfortable.
It doesn’t have to be walking away and never coming back. You can excuse yourself to go to the bathroom or grab a drink. By the time you come back, the group will be 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) Answer Back With Something Relevant
For example, if someone is asking you how old you are and it’s not something you want to share.
You can share something more general like ‘I’m in my 20s’ or share skincare secrets on how to look younger.
You can even ask if they have any advice about looking younger.
10) 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. It’s only when you’re being assertive that they will know when to back up.
These words do not leave any room for any interpretation and you are shutting them down.
The abrupt end to this conversation might get a little awkward so it’s best to have a question or another topic prepared on hand so you can transition to another topic.
Train Your Responses – Answering Uncomfortable Questions
This list has 10 different ways how to answer uncomfortable questions. However, in the heat of the moment, your head might go blank and not know how to respond to the person.
Your first reaction could even be actually answering the question when you don’t really want to.
Practice these techniques so you grow more comfortable with answering uncomfortable questions.
There are all kinds of situations where you’ll encounter uncomfortable questions like your first day at work or meeting someone new for the first time. It could even be a nosy family member during a holiday event.
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.
There are all kinds of reasons why people ask uncomfortable questions. People have different boundaries while others might lack social etiquette.
It depends on their motive. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable intentionally, try to let them down easily. For those who are trying to pry, you can be harsher with them.
Depending on the question and your personality, you’re likely to use a variety of the tactics listed above.
Now to You – Answering Uncomfortable Questions
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