Dealing with Difficult Behaviour: Nosey People
Have you ever….?
Have you ever spilled the beans on yourself or on somebody else? You’re at a party, social gathering or work event, or passing someone you know in the street or corridor when they casually ask you a ‘nosey’ question; suddenly you’re telling them, against your wishes and better judgement, about work colleagues, family, friends, or yourself personally, your age, finances, political and religious views. Telling all may leave you feeling exposed, anxious or unsettled; you might feel angry with yourself and resentful of the ‘nosey’ person.
What is a nosey question?
Is there such a thing as a nosey question? Two people can feel totally differently about the same question. If you’re out of work you might not feel like answering “What do you do?” but if you love your job you’ll probably be delighted to talk. You may be happy to answer a question socially but feel reticent at work.
Which questions do you find nosey?
Where do you live?
What’s your phone number?
Where do you work?
What’s your boss like?
What’s the company like to work for?
Are you in a relationship?
Are you married?
Do you have kids?
Do you own your own home?
Have you got a mortgage?
How much do you earn?
How old are you?
Do you believe in God?
How do you vote?
What other nosey questions do people ask you?
Why spill the beans?
So what makes us tell all when we know it’s unwise? Embarrassment, surprise, being taken unawares? Fear of being disliked? No wanting to offend or appear rude? A general inability to say no? Or simply not knowing what to say?
“Mind your own business”
A common aggressive response to a nosey question is “Mind your own business”, which is probably ruder than the question itself; the indirect person says “I hate it when people ask me that” while a more passive person might turn beetroot red…but answer.
Here are ten assertive tips on dealing with questions you personally find nosey:
1. Go with your gut: if your head & heart tell you not to answer, trust them.
2. Don’t be rude back: “How dare you ask me…” or “What a cheek” or turn the question back to them “So what’s your love life like?”
3. Use “I” statements.
4. Find out more if appropriate: “I’m interested to know why you’re asking?’, ‘How did you hear about that?’. You can then decide if you want to answer.
5. Say how you feel about being asked or about giving the information. “I’m surprised to be asked…” or “I feel awkward talking about…” or “I’m not comfortable being asked personal questions at work”.
6. Depersonalise your answer: "I don’t like saying my age" or “I don’t discuss personal issues/religion/politics at work”
7. If they press for answer say “I’m feeling pressured to answer and I’ve already said…”
8. If they still press, say “I’d like to change the subject.”
9. Sometimes a little, light humour will suffice: “How old are you?”, “I feel young” or “I don’t remember!”
10. Finally, don’t let guilt force you into returning to the subject & giving away your secrets
Some questions are of a more sensitive nature. Someone close may want to know what you are writing, where you are going, about your health or wealth! There will be times when you choose privacy. “Thank you for asking. I’d prefer not to go into it and would be grateful if you’d respect that”. There is a delicate balance here when both parties have genuine needs. Respect their enquiry as well as your needs, don’t bow to pressure & then regret. There may be a later time when you’re happy to share it.
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