Improper Inquest: When people get nosy

by EPI Staff on March 10, 2010

Q: How should I handle nosy questions such as, “How much money do you make?” or “What did you pay for your house?”

A: Some people, even ones you barely know, have no qualms about asking personal questions about money.  Instead of responding with, “None of your business,” deflect the question with humor.  When asked, “How much do you make?” respond with, “My boss thinks he’s paying plenty.”  Or if asked, “How much did you pay for that car?” say, “We broke the bank, that’s for sure.”  If you prefer a direct approach, say, “I’d rather not talk about that.”  Or “Why do you ask?”  That should at least give the person pause.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Remer March 11, 2010 at 2:51 am

This topic definitely falls into the category of highly sensitive. Such questions are rude, insensitive, and disrespectful However, they are usually asked from a position of innocence or ignorance and not rudeness. I believe in nipping such behavior in the bud. By doing so, people tend not to ask such questions again and may even learn something in the process and come back and thank you. I respond as if the person were my child. Drawing them aside for a private moment I lay the cards on the table and gently explain that I feel embarrassed answering such questions as do others. If the onus is shifted to my feelings and somewhat away from their actions, the negative energy is usually diffused. I often see a look of surprise in their eyes as though something magical had just been revealed. I like both of the answers you provide as well and am just tossing this hat in the ring as an alternative that works for me, sometimes. Love this blog!

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M. Hunter March 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I was raised by wonderful parents who had careers which demanded the utmost of discretion at times. I have a couple pat answers for situations such as mentioned. The first is to say, “Can you keep a secret?” to which everyone says yes, then respond, “So can I.”

For those persistant in asking sensitive questions, there comes a time when it’s more apropriate to, as the first to comment said, nip the behavior in the bud. At that point, I simply look at the person for a moment, then with a smile respond, “I’m trying to decide if I should answer that question.” When said with a non-sarcsatic smile, it doesn’t sound accusing, but does sound as if you’re acting with discretion.

Thank you for maintaining an excellent website!

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graykeller September 13, 2010 at 3:28 am

How much do you make? Answer–Why, jealous? What did you pay for your house? Answer—Twice what we paid for the last one. What did you pay for your car? Answer—More than the bluebook, but my husband loves to spoil me.

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