Today, we’ll learn how to answer awkward questions with ease and confidence in 4 easy approaches.
Each of us has encountered a situation where we were asked questions that were too nosy or intrusive. These were questions we’d rather not answer.
In this eloquent piece from the Brain Pickings, they discussed how politeness is commonly regarded as artificial. However, politeness also acts as a covenant and an agreement founded on mutual respect.
This is why that we find it unpleasant when we find ourselves in this situation because somehow, it feels like we are not treated as we deserve.
These situations occur both in our personal and professional lives. Sometimes, we fail to respond quickly and gracefully. Occasionally, we may even be painted in a bad light and would be called rude instead.
This is why we need to be mentally prepared for this kind of scenario to emerge from this challenge with ease and confidence.
4 Main Approaches on How to Answer Awkward Questions
In essence, the reason you don’t want to answer boils down to boundaries. Still, let’s make the reasons more concrete, so these can provide you with a response strategy:
- Given the nature of their relationship with you, the asker has not won the right to have the question answered.
- The asker has not won the right to have the question answered based on the extent of their professional relationship with you or the information’s relevance to their career.
- The inquirer led with a question about another person and is seeking gossip.
That said, let’s go over effective ways on how to answer an awkward question with ease and confidence when confronting this situation.
1. Keep Calm and Stay Graceful
It is essential to maintain a relaxed attitude whenever you’re put on the spot and asked awkward questions. Your ability to maintain control of your body language and facial expression adds credence to your response.
Sometimes, the sheer fact that you can demonstrate a calm demeanor will end the line of questioning. According to a famous quote from Epictetus, it is not what occurs to us that matters, but how we respond to it.
With that said, we should cultivate the mindset that keeping our calm and grace does better for us. When responding to those rude questions, you should refrain from using fillers and prolonged silences. Avoid appearing as though you’re evading because doing so allows them to coax and push.
So, remain steady, calm, and firm. Moreover, settle on the thought that you don’t owe anyone an answer, especially those who are not involved in the issue whatsoever.
To make things easier, maintain a list of standard responses to inappropriate questions in your mind and practice them regularly.
After all, there are so many offensive questions that you could easily spend an entire day brainstorming responses and quips. Rather than squandering precious time, prepare a few standard answers that apply to a variety of circumstances.
That said, here are some examples you can use to respond to these awkward and nosy questions:
- That isn’t polite of you to ask such a question.
- This is really none of your concern.
- I don’t know about ____. Why don’t you ask them yourself?
- Let’s talk about something else.
- Excuse me; I think I have to be somewhere else.
- I’d rather not respond to that.
2. Set Your Boundaries
Typically, you decline to answer a question because it is inappropriate, crosses a personal boundary, or inquires about something the individual asking has not earned the right. As a result, you might want to avoid the question or not answer altogether.
Because of this, you need to fortify your boundaries all the more. To do this, you should list down everything you are willing to reveal or are unwilling to disclose.
Then, make a list of people you trust, people who may manipulate or gossip about you, then your acquaintances and affiliates. As stated in this article by author Mark Manson, setting these boundaries only paves the way for healthier relationships and steers us further from codependency.
You must be able to draw the line at all times. We have all heard the line “people will do to you what you allow them,” but this is not always the case. Many people will simply do what they want.
Your responsibility lies in cutting them short and reminding them that what they’re doing is not okay with you.
3. Prepare Your Stance: Against Rudeness, Gossip and Disrespect
When you find yourself in this uncomfortable position with a rude person, you need to know how to answer awkward questions.
This is why you should arm yourself with some responses that indicate that you find the questions rude. There are many ways to respond to these people: with the reaction they want, witty retort, or a way of indicating that you regard them as impolite for asking quite a disrespectful question.
Generally, serial gossipers are insecure, sad, or envious. They need gossip to elevate themselves by bringing others down. In a personal context, gossip can result in the disintegration of relationships and extreme depression.
In the workplace, unchecked gossip can result in low morale, decreased productivity, and litigation.
Still, gossip would often backfire. Everyone in the workplace must be motivated to put an end to rumors, and management must set the example. Typically, gossip begins a discussion with a question to entice you to join the gossip groups.
We understand gossip could be fun. Belonging in a group makes us feel accepted. Still, remember that they might not be company worth keeping.
In addition to this, Eleanor Roosevelt was keen to say that if we realized how rarely people thought substantially, we wouldn’t even worry about what they had to say.
4. Be the Bigger Person
In a professional setting, questions asked should be answered with caution. Even more so if it is done coyly or to ascertain the following:
- business details that the asker does not have access to
- your feelings about a job situation
- personal information about you or others
- add your answer to the rumor mill.
These individuals are often or almost always unaware that they are practicing poor etiquette. Nevertheless, even if they are conscious, you should never resort to retaliating with poor manners.
It is entirely up to you whether or not to respond to them, ignore them, or inquire as to why they felt the need to ask about such matters.
Additionally, it is entirely up to you whether or not to respond to them, ignore them, or inquire why they felt the need to ask about such matters.
Your rebuttal should be delivered with a soft, steady tone. You can use jokes to soften your answer if possible. Then, steer the conversation to a different subject. Eventually, the other person will pick up on the hint.
If they are inquiring about your feelings about a particular work situation, you can respond,
“I’m not sure. I didn’t really put much thought to it.”
If they are requesting personal information, your answer should be,
“I prefer not to discuss my personal life at work.”
If they are attempting to convince you to contribute to the gossip mill, your answer should be,
“I’m not really interested in talking about it if we’re not sure.”
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Although everybody makes mistakes from time to time, some people just have that uncanny ability to constantly put their foot in their mouth or commit some social faux pas. Just remember that no matter the situation, you should always stand your ground.
Don’t make it your personal burden to deal with people who don’t practice proper etiquette and manners.
Moreover, it would be best if you also considered that these people might also be going through something you have no idea of. That said, we should all just act accordingly and try our best to treat each other with mutual respect.
If we were able to help you learn how to answer awkward questions, please do share this knowledge with people who might have had the same experience. Feel free to drop some feedback to share in the comment section to improve our content further.