Dealing with Nosy Friends or Family

Everyone has had a family member or friend overstep the boundaries when it comes to showing a bit too much curiosity about what is going on in our personal life. Often, these people do not mean to be poking their noses too far into our business and are only asking for information out of sincere interest or concern.

However, there are people who make a habit out of meddling and repeatedly asking prying questions that put others on the spot. For some reason, these folks seem to find enjoyment and satisfaction in making others feel uncomfortable and watching somebody else squirm a little.

Of course, there are also instances when we may feel like people are being nosy merely because they have inadvertently touched upon a subject we happen to be sensitive about discussing for a private or personal reason. The friend or family member may not realize that the subject matter is one we might find intrusive or rude.

No matter what the situation or motivation behind someone’s inquiry or conversation, you do not have to answer a question or supply information if you do not feel comfortable doing so. No matter what your relationship may be with the other person, you do not have to compromise your own sense of privacy out of obligation, affection, fear, or any other reason. 

There are many ways to “not answer” a question. Here are a few suggestions for dealing with a “nosy” friend or loved one.

A few suggestions that might help…

  • Be direct.  There’s nothing wrong with telling people when they are getting a little too personal. It’s okay to say you are not comfortable answering a question or discussing a topic. Some people need you to set boundaries for them.

  • Change the subject. Shift the focus of the conversation without answering questions or offering information. Simply begin talking about something else. The person may be confused at first, but he or she will probably have something to say or share about the new subject.

  • Be choosy. If you are asked a question you find too personal or private, answer only a portion of the question that you feel comfortable discussing and dodge the rest. 

  • Broaden the topic. Steer the conversation toward something that’s related to the undesirable subject matter but doesn’t actually address what the nosey person brings up. For example, if the person asks you how much you paid for your new condo, talk about why you chose the condo instead. 

  • Avoid responding at all. Find something else that needs your attention. Check your phone for messages. Walk across the room to see if your plant needs watering. Excuse yourself to use the restroom.

  • Use humor to make your point. Try laughing off a nosy inquiry by turning it into a joke. Telling someone they are snooping with a great big smile on your face can make your message a little easier for the other person to hear and accept without hurt or uncomfortable feelings.

  • Be a politician. Anyone who has ever run for political office has had to respond to questions without ever really answering them. Speak in sweeping generalizations and offer impersonal observations.

  • Put off your answer for another time and place. If you are in a public place, you can always tell someone that you prefer to discuss a matter in a more private setting. It may not stop the person from ever asking the question again, but at least you will escape the need to give an answer right then and there.

  • Come up with a “pat” answer. If you are repeatedly asked the same question about something going on in your life, come up with an answer you can use again and again. Think of something you can say that you are comfortable with and provides enough information to satisfy anyone asking the question.

  • Avoid asking nosy questions yourself. Respect people’s personal boundaries. Try not to bring up private subjects that someone else may feel uncomfortable about addressing. Avoid asking questions that could come across as intrusive or impolite. Hopefully, others will follow your lead!

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