When are you going to have another kid? Have you found a teaching job yet? What ethnicity/nationality are you? How much was your house? What is your SAT score? Is it weird having a child that doesn’t look like you? Who divorced who?
From time to time, we are asked questions that simply make us cringe. These cringe-inducing questions are normally very personal, surrounding a topic that isn’t enjoyable to talk about, a touchy subject, or something we are self-conscious about. Sure, there are individuals who can dish out the deepest, personal details without flinching, but on the flip side, others can find such inquiries…awkward. In this day and age where money troubles, unemployment, fertility issues, and divorce are very common, I’m still amazed how some people can jump right into these topics.
We have all been there, and I sure know I have! Below I’ve listed a few tips on how to handle these fun questions gracefully.
Number 1: Be vague. If someone inquires when you are going to start trying for another child, a vague answer (ie: soon, we’re not sure, or when the time is right) will normally deter any further questions and enable you to not go into detail on the subject.
Number 2: Keep your cool. Some questions can strike a nerve or tug at our heartstrings, so it’s helpful to take a step back before answering. Giving yourself a moment can help you reply with composure and not let your emotions get in the way. I have dealt with lots of questions regarding my divorce. Some questions were more intrusive than others but I try my hardest to not take these questions personally. If you run into a hard question like this, I suggest plastering a smile on your face, taking a step back, and replying with a vague response (for example: things didn’t work out).
Number 3: Put the ball in their court. If someone asks how much you paid for your house, put the ball in their court and reply “Who do you ask?”. This will field the question back to them. Sure, some people will quickly retort back with a reason as to why they questioned, but others may not have a reason or struggle with the appropriate ‘wording’ and just drop the subject entirely. If Molly asks you if you’re pregnant simply because she heard from another that you were, Molly may be embarrassed to admit this when the question is redirected to her.
Number 4: Change the subject. Sometimes you are asked questions that you really just don’t want to answer. Sometimes a simple change of subject can be enough to dissuade any further discussion on the topic: “No, still on the hunt for a job. So – how are you liking your job?”
Number 5: Act happy/excited. This is one of my favorite go-to tips. If someone questions why you aren’t married yet, tell them you enjoy the single life. I have noticed that if you act excited, this will prevent potential negativity.
Number 6: Throw in positives. Occasionally, there are some folks who love nothing more than getting on their soap box and offering advice. This particular camp of people will ask a question, then offer advice on how they would handle the situation. To change the subject and ward off unwanted advice, throwing in positive statements will do the job.
Number 7: Know it’s OK not to talk about it. Some people have the misconception that it’s considered rude to opt out of answering or putting a question on hold. I disagree to this notion as one should never feel obligated to answering an icky/uncomfortable question. If you are asked a personal question during a family dinner or event where other people are present, it’s okay to respond with “Let’s chat about this after dinner”. I have dealt with my fare share of pushy questioners who still ask, even if I’ve completed steps 1-6. When dealing with a pushy questioner who doesn’t get the hint, firmly telling them the following will (hopefully) help them drop the subject:
“I appreciate your concern, but I’d rather not talk about this anymore. How are things going for you?”
“Thank you for asking, but this is a pretty sensitive subject for me and I’d rather not talk about it.”
“This isn’t a fun topic, how about we talk about something else?”
Unfortunately, most will drop the subject immediately after hearing the responses above, but occasionally you might run into the situation where the questioner feels you are keeping things from them or becomes offended. If this happens, I suggest practicing the trusty ‘It’s me, not you” method. Gently reassure them that your prerogative isn’t anything personal.
Number 8: Control the conversation. Even though the questions are directed to you, an easy trick to deflect attention and move into a new (less annoying) territory is to give a short answer to their question, and then turn the questions on them: "I'm doing great, thanks - and how are you and Ben doing? Where are you going on vacation this year?" Hopefully they'll be so distracted talking about their vacation plans, they'll forget to focus on you.
It’s your turn! How do you handle awkward questions?
I’d love to hear!