Family gatherings, get together with friends or hanging out with neighbours are fun as long as you are not the target of their hostility in the form of their intrusive questions and unwanted advice.
A few days back I was invited to a dinner party where a friend of the host over a conversation on population problem, asked me (of all the people present why was I target, I fail to understand) what birth control method I use (as if I am the reason of population explosion in the country). I stood there in stunned silence for a few seconds only murmur a few incomprehensible words under my breath.
Many a times we are faced with questions which are downright inappropriate, irritating and many a times intrusive in nature. It’s no fun if you are grilled about the following: when are you getting married, when will you get real job, how much do you earn, it’s been 5 years since you are married; when will you have kids, when are you bringing a sibling for your first one, how come you gained/lost weight etc. etc. etc. And this grilling keeps going on and on till the time this “nosy” person gets a satisfactory answer.
And the nightmare doesn’t end here. Your answer is followed by all and sundry giving you advice on matters of family, health and finances, even if you don’t want. And bordering to irritating ones are the elderly who think they are eligible to give advice to anyone, anytime and on anything because they have successfully survived the 60 years of their life.
Though many people would instantly reply to intrusive questions in an impolite manner, I find it hard to cope with such questions and often end up in replying.
But all said and done, you won’t disagree with me when I say it’s a tricky thing to answer an intrusive question offhand. Dodging unpleasant questions require skills.
Of late I am learning some tricks on how not- to answer the awkward questions people ask. Though it’s still a work in progress, here’s what I have learnt so far:
First, you have to keep in mind that it’s your fundamental right to keep mum in face of adversaries. This “art” requires great will power though. You have to pretend not listening by maintaining a poker face or just give a faint smile to your opponent or simply ignore the question as if never asked. Of course, the other person might have doubts about your intelligence but by executing these strategies if you are able to evade intrusive questions, then so be it.
Second, use the art of deflection. Let me illustrate this by giving some real-life examples and how you can use this art to your advantage.
- Suppose someone ask you, how much do you earn? Say “enough” and immediately change the subject by adding “hey, do you know Sameera got a promotion last week.” Keep changing the topic until the questioner gets the message.
- If you are at a social gathering and want to shift the focus from you, say “please excuse, let me just check what my kid is up to” or “I need to take the second helping of this dish”.
- Its a known fact that people love talking about themselves and it can be used as your weapon to master the art of deflection. For example, if you don’t want to tell how much you weigh, you can say, “just apt for my height” and immediately ask the questioner how he/she is able to maintain her weight or what’s her/his exercise routine.
- In extension to the above , I like this tip as suggested by a website that if posed with an uncomfortable question, you should think and act like a seasoned politician who cleverly redirect the questions (posed by media people) to a topic which he finds comfortable to discuss. This technique requires practice as you not only have to answer the question, but at the same time take the conversation to a topic which revolves around the original question asked; this way the questioner doesn’t feel you are avoiding the query. The plan comes in handy when your in-laws or parents ask when they will be grandparents. Say, “soon” or “haven’t decided” and add immediately that you want to know the ups and down of their parenting journey so you can learn from it. Trust me they have a repertoire of parenting stories, narrating which, they will forget about the original question asked.
- Talking about this question (when you are having baby) which every person is always inquisitive know even if you are married for about a month only, you can always tell people that you and your husband have other responsibilities to take care of, or are planning to buy a home first, or a straight-forward reply like both of you want to travel to places first and mention some activities/adventures you do on vacations. Your interrogators will surely pitch in with their own stories, thereby shifting the attention elsewhere.
Third, use humour. If you answer back with funny reply, people might realise that you don’t want to respond and if you are lucky they won’t ask again. So, for a question like how much you earn; the answer could be “half what I am worth.” or the extreme “a few crores per month”. Another way to answer If posed about weight gain question “I am in a happy zone of my life right now, that’s why the weight gain.”
One of my friend, in late thirties, is happily single. People keep asking her about her marriage plans, to which she sometimes say, “A pretty woman like me is still waiting for her Richard Gere.”
Fourth, if it’s a painful topic to talk about, like death, illness, failure you can always say “I am not in a mood to discuss it. Let’s talk something pleasant; it will make me feel better.”
Fifth, when a questioner ask you an intrusive question, you can always ask them casually, “Why you ask?” the question-asker might be taken aback by such direct talk and think about the appropriateness of the question. Also, it will give you a few seconds to think about the response, if the questioner is persistent about getting the reply.
Lastly, if you feel that its none of anyone’s business to ask you uncomfortable question, you can tell them that directly. Be polite but firm. This one might make you come across as an indifferent or rude person though, so decide well.
One last thing, you have to always gauge it yourself if the question is intrusive or not, depending on the situation and relationship with the asker. Your close friend might mean well when talking about personal matter, but a colleague might not, and for such, apply the strategies as mentioned above.
Let us know in the comments section what strategies you use to avoid intrusive questions.