How to Deal with Intrusive Questions

When someone asks you an intrusive question, you usually wonder why they're asking it. These types of questions tend to break the normal conversational rules and make you feel uncomfortable. In fact, you really don't want to answer them, but you also don't want to hurt the person's feelings. This article tells you how to tactfully deal with these kinds of situations.
How to Deal with Intrusive Questions

Last update: 29 June, 2021

Sometimes, you’re asked intrusive questions that you don’t really know how to answer or you feel are inappropriate. They’re usually of a highly personal nature and not fitting to the kind of relationship you have with the person who asks them. Some of the questions may even have an accusatory tone. What they all have in common is that they make you feel uncomfortable. For this reason, you might adopt a defensive attitude.

Intrusive questions don’t really suggest any genuine interest in the person they’re directed at. They tend to be questions like: How much do you earn each month? Are you going to have more children? Do you want to move to a new home? In fact, sometimes, these questions are more unnecessary comments than questions.

This article suggests the best way to deal with them.

A woman being asked intrusive questions.

Where do intrusive questions come from?

Generally, people prefer knowledge to ignorance. For this reason, you tend to like to know about others. In fact, other people’s personal lives often arouse curiosity. As with natural phenomena, you like to know the reason for something happening. With people, this reason lies in their motives.

However, problems arise when their motive goes beyond the boundaries of the relationship and they ask intrusive questions. In effect, they overstep the mark.

Certain questions should never be asked to a new acquaintance or in front of others who you know but the other person doesn’t. Politeness and good manners are key here.

Nowadays, social media exposure means that almost everyone has a public profile. This tends to imply that the previous rules regarding privacy have become somewhat redundant. However, the rules regarding face-to-face interactions haven’t changed.

Some of the most frequent intrusive questions are: How much do you make? How old are you? When are you getting married? Do you have children? Are you working?

How to react to intrusive questions

Intrusive questions cause unpleasant situations. You find yourself expected to answer an uncomfortable question that’s been thrown at you out of the blue. Nevertheless, you realize that the other person may not have wanted to make you feel uneasy, so you try to politely let them know that it isn’t a question you want to answer.

People don’t usually ask intrusive questions to bother you. However, they do tend to have a habit of continuing with their awkward questions. For this reason, the way you answer will determine whether or not you manage to stop them from asking other uncomfortable questions.

It’s okay to tell them that you don’t want to answer. Initially, it might cause some kind of barrier between you. However, it shouldn’t really affect your relationship in the long term.

React with good humor and assertiveness

Imagine you’re with a friend and their partner. You’re telling them about your latest travels and they ask you how you’re making so much money to afford your trips. You don’t want to be rude, but you also don’t want to answer their question in detail.

You could explain “I work really hard and put in a lot of hours, so I can afford to travel” or “I’m extremely good at what I do and I earn enough to travel”. Another option is to be more assertive and say, “I’m lucky. I’ll tell you about it someday”.

There are many common intrusive questions that are usually quite direct. For example: How old are you? Are you married? How much do you earn?

They’re questions you don’t particularly want to answer. However, you can always say with a smile “Sorry, I don’t really remember”. It’s better than saying, “Why do you want to know?”

A couple laughing.

Although it may seem somewhat paradoxical, it’s best to answer these questions with the least amount of unpleasantness. This will relieve your tension, as well as that of those around you. Furthermore, you’ll create boundaries made out of respect, not confrontation.

At the end of the day, you aren’t responsible for other people’s bad manners, and you can certainly ensure they don’t spoil your day.

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The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.