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We Get Squirmy When You Ask…. But, Yes, It Was Nice of You to Inquire

January 22, 2021 Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

25 Questions that make us uncomfortable, so before you do….

We love when our friends and family take an interest in us. However, when the questions veer toward the super-nosey or even rude, we start to feel squirmy and uncomfortable. How do you respond and reconcile your distaste for certain questions and still be civil and polite?  

With the pandemic still surging and many of us having fewer face-to-face interactions, you’d think that the nosiness would decrease. Yet, we’re finding the exact opposite, and questions are ramping up to a new high. 

Maybe many of us have more time on our hands to think about what we’d like to know. Maybe, it’s simply for informational, advice purposes when it’s about how much we tip or spend on gifts to our hair cutter, doorman, favorite UPS delivery guy, or how much we spent for staying at a certain, very chic hotel? 

Here’s another explanation. Maybe, it’s all the TV series and movies we’re watching from home and all the quirky characters we’re getting to know, including the questions they pose and questions that are asked of them. Our favorite “Gilmore Girls” certainly raised honesty about almost everything to a new level. 

But since we’re not psychologists…yet, we like the advice of experts. According to PsychMechanics, a source we found online written by Hanan Parvez, who holds an MBA and MA Psychology, the answer is: “They think they’re on a level with you where they can ask you about your personal stuff but they’re wrong. They’ve misread or misunderstood your social signals. They don’t understand that people have boundaries. They don’t understand that people share their personal stuff with others selectively.” 

How do we react? 

When those old boundary violations we blogged about before (2/7/2020- "Boundaries: How to Stay (Safely) in Your Lane,") rear their head, we shut down and change the topic. Or, we might say, as Julianna Margulies did in “The Good Wife” TV show, “I’ll get back to you,” but we probably don’t think fast enough. Or, if we’re face-to-face we might raise our eyebrows, smile and say, honestly, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about this” and try not to sound snarky. Another tactic we might try is to reply with a smile on our face, “Why do you ask?” That might stop them in their tracks. 

You can also always turn the question around on them. For example, if they ask something about one of your children, don’t answer but ask instead, “What about your children? How are they?” As one woman told us, “Some people we know but aren’t really close to can be non-self-disclosing types. They want to know everything about you but don’t tell you anything about their lives.” They’re not necessarily rude but lack self-awareness, but then they may be very aware and know what they’re doing.  

If a question offends, we suggest not engaging, trying to answer or acting defensive. Some people are curious and really care, some are clueless, and some are angry types who want to shame you with their nosiness. A friend of ours was separated from her husband who was having a very public relationship with another women. One night our friend was attending an event when a woman she knew but was not close to asked her, “What does it feel like being in your position?” Our friend played dumb. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” and walked away.  

We suggest instead of posing nosey questions, ask about people's interests. Find out what excites or aggravates them--their daily pleasures or what keeps them up at night. Ask about the latest movie they've seen, what they like to cook or the story behind a wonderful ring or earrings they're wearing. 

Here are the kinds of inappropriate questions we’re talking about from both of us and several friends. We think it’s best not to put people in the position of having to answer them, but we also know that sometimes the words just tumble out. If you realize afterward you have erred, you can always apologize and try to kick the habit. 

  1. You’re ready to buy a delicious chocolate covered hazelnut macron and the person you’re with asks, “Do you really need that?”
  2. You seem to have put on some weight, and are asked, are you doing anything about it?
  3. Or, I hear you’re dating someone. Are you sleeping together yet?
  4. What’s it like to have sex again at your age?
  5. Are you living together?
  6. Why aren’t you and your boyfriend living together?
  7. Are you going to get married?
  8. Why aren’t you getting married?
  9. How come your kids aren’t married yet?
  10. Is your daughter ever going to get engaged to the guy she’s living with?
  11. Is your grandson/granddaughter gay?
  12. Why aren’t your children having children?
  13. Does your daughter earn six figures yet? How about your son?
  14. How much do you think your house/condo is worth?
  15. How much did you sell your house/condo for?
  16. Have you had some Botox done? Exactly how much?
  17. Have you had a laser peel or a facelift?
  18. Is your husband making enough money for you to buy that Chanel dress?
  19. Did you get a good settlement in your divorce?
  20. Don’t you know you don’t wear white shoes after Labor Day (or before Memorial Day)?
  21. Is the person you’re dating worthy of you? You seem so much smarter and more fun?
  22. Do you really happen to have $50,000 ($75,000, $100,000) to redo your kitchen? (bathroom, living room or backyard?)
  23. You can’t afford to donate even $25/$50/$75 to…this political campaign, our college fund, the local bake sale, the neighborhood fund drive?
  24. How much did that sweater/dress/coat cost; I don’t think I would ever spend what I think it cost?.
  25. Can you afford to own both your house and your Florida vacation condo?

Are you offended by these questions and, if so, how would you reply? Let us know in the comments space below.

 

 




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