By Michelle Powell
AL.com, February 29, 2016 —
Some things still catch me off guard and puzzle me – like rude questions.
Though I have learned over time how to maintain my composure, it still surprises me how brazen people can sometimes be. And funny thing is (or not so funny) is that these rude or awkward questions usually come from people you’d think would know better.
Unfortunately, Ill-mannered people usually don’t recognize their own offensive behavior. Overstepping boundaries by asking rude questions is common practice for some people – usually the ones who themselves have no boundaries, so they think you shouldn’t either. “I’m an open book” they brag while trying to read pages from your diary, so to speak.
Has an intrusive question ever caught you like a deer in headlights? After the rush that sent you into a mild shock, you picked up your jaw and searched for a response. How did you handle the situation? Gracefully, I hope.
Most of us are caught off guard when a person asks a meddling question. The embarrassment the other person should be feeling is transferred to you as the question sinks in. It creates an awkward moment that gives you pause as you try to figure out how to save face and respond without giving away information you’d rather keep private.
Such instances often occur in the workplace. And because of the relationship you may have with the person, you may feel the need to respond. Respond, yes. But don’t feel obligated to divulge anything you are not comfortable with. If you don’t wish to share, then don’t. Simply stand your ground.
Rude questions are usually asked by those who are simply curious. However, others are more interested in figuring out your social status (i.e. finances). Then there are those who are looking to pass judgment or give advice.
Be careful of these traps. If you give in once, the questions may continue to come until you feel as if they’ve stripped you of every article of clothing and shred of dignity, leaving you angry with yourself for having allowed it. There is a wise saying that I often repeat (paraphrased) – “Having good manners sometimes means putting up other people’s bad ones.” In the case of direct and offensive questions, I would suggest that you modify this a little – shut up rather than put up! Try these on for size:
Q: How can you afford that? A: I manage my money well. (Or) You can too if you know how to shop for bargains. (Or try humor) Last year my wife and I planted money trees.
Q: How much did that cost? A: That’s not something I want to share but I’m happy with it.
Q: Is that your real hair? A: (a sassy response) Is that your real question? (Or) I hope your question is meant to be a compliment so let’s leave it at that and I’ll say thank you.
Q: How many carats is that? (Looking at your new engagement ring) A: It doesn’t matter. It’s enough to make me say yes! (or) Enough to say he loves me!
Q: I noticed you’re putting on weight. Are you pregnant? A: No, I’m not. (Leave it at that. Nothing else needs to be said. The person will realize from their own embarrassment that they have the taste of leather in their mouth.)
Q: Are you going to breast-feed? A: That’s a personal decision I don’t feel comfortable discussing. (Not to mention the varied opinions that spark needless moral and political debate.)
Q: You were out for a long time. What happened to you? A: I appreciate your concern but all is well. So tell me, what did I miss? Any changes I need to know about?
Q: Do you attend church? A: Why? Were you planning to invite me to yours? (or, if you feel you’re being bated into a religious conversation) I’m not sure why that matters.
Q: You’re so attractive. Why are you still single? A: Thanks for the compliment…I think.
In any of these instances, if the person still doesn’t get it and pursues an answer with other prying questions, you may have to be more forceful and direct. Some people are a bit more clueless than others so it becomes necessary (and actually helpful) to squelch the behavior by addressing it head on. Give direct responses that point out the underlying message – how rude! Arm yourself with these types of responses so that you are not caught off guard. Here are a few suggestions:
“I only discuss money matters with my accountant and my spouse.”
“I’m sorry but I find that question to be too personal and I’d rather not respond.”
“That’s not a question I feel comfortable answering. Let’s move on, shall we?”
With a puzzled look on your face and a pause, “Did you really just ask me that?”
“Do you realize how rude that question is?”
“That is a personal matter I’d rather not discuss.”
Don’t be afraid to teach a lesson – graciously, of course. The last thing you want to do is snap back at the person and leave them thinking you’re just too sensitive. Remain calm and controlled in your response. You may even use some humor. The main point is, don’t give rude behavior unnecessary attention. Just move on and help the intruder to do the same.