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How To Respond To Uncomfortable And Intrusive Questions

We were trained to answer politely; our expert says it’s better to answer honestly. Psychologist Luis Villarroel shares tips.

We’ve all been asked questions that are no one else’s business: “Why are you still single?” “Why don’t you have kids yet?” “Are you gay?” “How much do you make?”

Our first instinct would be to get angry at the intrusiveness of the questions, but Luis Villarroel, psychologist and founder of Kintsugi Psy (https://www.facebook.com/kintsugi.psy), advises that we should first give the one asking the benefit of the doubt. “Sometimes, people ask things they shouldn’t because they’re bored, they’re curious, or they’re looking for intrigue. But it’s also possible that they just don’t know any better,” he points out.

What to do instead? Answer honestly — and by honestly, Luis means to answer based on how you feel about the question. How to find out? Here are some things you can do the next time someone asks you something that makes you squirm:

  1. First, determine the other person’s motives. 

    Ask questions in return, such as: “Why are you curious?” or “Why do you ask that?”

    If the person is really persistent, ask: “Is there something going on in your life that you want to know more about mine?”

    These questions will help you understand the person’s intentions and guide you into making your next move, which is to answer, to decline, or to disengage.
  1. If you want to answer, go right ahead.

    “There is no shame in that,” Luis says. Just make sure that answering is what you really want to do; do not answer for the sake of being polite (a common reaction if the one asking is an older relative or a superior at work), or because you feel guilty or are being pressured. Doing so will only take a toll on your mental health.

    “There is a difference between answering politely and answering healthily. If you are polite (for example: you just give an uneasy laugh), the other person might not realize that their questions are inappropriate or are making you uncomfortable,” points out Luis. “They might keep asking it the next time you meet, which means you have to keep up the charade and bottle up your feelings, all of which could also affect your mental health later on.

“There is a difference between answering politely and answering healthily.”

Luis Villarroel RPsy
  1. If you would rather decline answering, make it simple and straight to the point. 

    Say things like: “Sorry I’m not comfortable answering that”, “I don’t want to talk about that”, or “Can we talk about something else? I’m not in the mood to talk about that.”

    There is no need to antagonize or fight with the person (i.e. “You’re so rude” or “That’s so offensive”); not all battles have to be fought.
  1. If the other person keeps pressing the issue, know that you have every right to disengage by walking away.

    “Everyone has the fundamental right to privacy. Everyone is entitled to share what they want to share and withhold what they want to withhold,” Luis points out. “Do not let the other person, whether intentionally or not, manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do.”


Finally, when you have some time alone, Luis advises that you reflect on your thoughts, values, and principles.

After all, events –and questions — by themselves are not positive or negative. What makes them good or bad is how we perceive them. There may not really be any malice in the question being asked. “Ask yourself why you perceive some questions as ‘intrusive’? What about those questions makes them ‘bad’ or ‘rude’ to you? Why do they make you uncomfortable?” Luis suggests.

If you do find the reason, and are content with your belief that they are too personal to answer, then go ahead and defend your right NOT to answer them the next time you are asked. On the other hand, you might end up realizing that you can answer those questions after all, and you will become better for it,” he says.



Written by Jac of MindNation

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