The epitome of a chic classy modern lady is her ability to always be mysterious which due to this behavior provokes even more curiosity in those that are around her. But as one of my readers pointed out to me recently, while many of us respect the decision to be mysterious, it is much more difficult to actually be mysterious and opt for discretion rather than the alternative.
After all, we are surrounded by friends, family and colleagues who want to know what is going on in our lives, and they become especially curious when we don’t want to reveal too much voluntarily (ironic, but true). While most people are asking about topics not intentionally trying to be nosy or hurtful, there are others who aren’t necessarily asking because they care. Either way, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, that is reason enough not to answer. It took quite some time for me to realize that just because a question is asked of me doesn’t mean I have to answer.
But the question remains, how do we respectfully, tactfully and gracefully navigate such situations? Well, I’ve gathered together what I have found to be most successful for myself as well as a few other people I questioned about this topic (they were willing participants I promise!)
The key to any of these approaches is that it will take practice. Choose a few that you think will work best for the situations you know you’re bound to run up against and give them a shot. The more you use them, the more they will become second hat. And more importantly, if you consistently make it known that you are not going to be gossiping, answering personal questions or engaging in conversations that are inappropriate, in time most people won’t approach you with such nonsense.
Respond to a Nosy Question with a Question.
Why do you ask? Wouldn’t you like to know? Can I consider you intrigued? If they persist, keep responding with a question. Often I can find myself in the middle of a impassioned political discussion, and I find that the best way to calm the situation down is to ask where they found their information (in other words, from what source did you hear that?) This usually stops them in their tracks because even if they know, they have to recall the information and that veers them off course a bit.
Redirect the Conversation (aka Changing the Subject)
If a question makes you uncomfortable and the person doing the asking isn’t taking your subtle hints, change the conversation altogether “I’m going to the bar, can I get you another drink?” or flip the tables (not literally, although that would change the subject now wouldn’t?) and give them a genuine compliment about their wardrobe, hair, etc – anything to divert the attention off of yourself.
Stay on Top of Current Events
The best way to avoid uncomfortable questions is to be preventative. Always have a conversation topic at-the-ready. Preferably something that your company may be aware of, but isn’t gossip (avoid gossip at all costs as it only reflects poorly on those doing the talking). Raise the bar and talk about concepts and ideas, rather than private personal matters. Here are a few sources to stay abreast of current news:
morning television programs (Today Show, American Morning, The View, Morning Joe, etc)
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times (Sunday edition)
Esquire or Men’s Journal (you will find universal conversation starters believe it or not)
any book on the bestseller lists
(the list could go on and on, but hopefully this is a great start and if ever at a loss of conversation, talk about the weather)
Ask Questions of People That They’d Like to Discuss
So often many people do feel comfortable talking about about themselves if it is something they don’t mind sharing or are proud of. Why not begin the conversation by setting an example of what type of questions you wouldn’t mind answering. In other words, always follow the golden rule. Whether they follow your lead is up to them, but at least you are paying them the respect you would like to receive. (Click here to read about the benefits of being a good listener.)
Smile and Shake Your Head (Chuckle a bit if necessary)
Words can get us into trouble, so why not say nothing at all? Yes, this may seem awkward at first, but had the person not asked such an uncomfortable question, then they wouldn’t have to be feeling awkward. Basically, give them this subtle hint that this is not a topic up for discussion.
Give Vague Answers
If you’re not quite comfortable telling someone they are prying much too hard into your personal life, simply answer with a vague statement. If they ask how your love life is going, reply, “Very well, actually.” And leave it at that.
When a question is asked that you’d rather not answer, busy yourself with another task or walk to another group of people excusing yourself first, and if you’re in a casual setting take out your cell phone and start going through your apps or viewing your messages, or pick up a magazine or read a book.
Cut to the Chase
If you are comfortable telling-it-like-it-is or someone has constantly been nagging you incessantly, just tell them the truth, “I’m not one to share such personal information.” Or better yet, if you are continually plagued by the questions about why you are still single or when you and your husband are going to have a baby state very bluntly, “My sex life is none of your business.” Actually what I’ve always wanted to say in this scenario is to return with a question of my own that is equally personal, “And might you share with me the success of your marital sex life or is it so boring that you have to inquire about mine?” Okay, that’s a bit over the top, but truly, wasn’t their question just as nosy?
I hope these tips have helped a bit and always remember, the only reason you need to not answer is that it makes you uncomfortable (and this is always easier to discern if you haven’t had any drinks or just a few sips). A modern lady is always aware of her environment, knows her boundaries and respects herself first.