What to Say to Nosy People

Respond to Nosy People With Grace

Young female in cafe
You don't have to answer rude questions from nosy people. Mike Harrington / Getty Images

Some people seem to think that they have a right to be rude and ask any question they want. However, this shows that they either haven't learned proper etiquette or simply don't care.

We've all been asked rude questions that are no one else's business. Although everyone slips up now and then, some nosy people seem to have a knack for always sticking their foot in their mouth or making some social faux pas. You may answer the question and move on to another topic, but you don't have to.

The most important thing to remember is that responding to rudeness with rudeness rarely accomplishes anything. It reduces you to the level of the person who started it.

It can also make a bad situation worse, create hard feelings, and make you look worse than the person who asked the nosy question. There are some rude things you should never say, regardless of the situation.

Take the High Road

These people are often unaware that they're exhibiting bad etiquette, but even if they know what they're doing, you should never stoop to getting back at them with bad manners. It's up to you whether or not you want to give them an answer, ignore them, or ask why they need to know whatever it is. Your comeback should be said with a smile and an even tone. If possible, use humor to soften your response, and then change the subject. Hopefully, the person will get the hint.

Be Prepared

For times that you find yourself in the awkward position of being interrogated by a rude person, you need to arm yourself with some answers that will let him or her know that you consider the questions rude. There are several ways to handle these people: with the answer they are looking for, with a quippy comeback, or with a way of letting them know that you consider them boorish for asking such a question.

Set Boundaries

Certain rude questions tend to come up more frequently than others. Before you walk out the door each day, make the decision to maintain good manners and not be that nosy person. If you are on the receiving end, be prepared with answers that let the other person know what you think of his or her nosiness with as much poise as you can manage.

If you have children, start early and teach them questions not to ask. Most kids are naturally inquisitive, so direct them to the more appropriate conversation topics.

  • 01 of 08

    How Much Money Do You Make?

    Henglein and Steets/ Cultura/ Getty Image

    This question about money is quite common. Depending on the context and person asking you, it can be considered either nosy or part of achieving pay transparency and equity. Your answer will be different if the person asking is a coworker than if the question is coming from someone sitting next to you on an airplane.

    The simplest answer is to say that you never discuss money with anyone but your spouse. Most people will accept that, but others who are extremely rude might press or insult you to get their answer. Don’t fall for it. Keep changing the subject until the person gets the message.

    Another thing you might do is answer with a quippy, “Enough to pay my bills and have a little fun,” or “Not nearly enough to do everything I’d like to do. How about you?"

    If you believe that this question is related to the pay gap, you should strive to answer the person asking you to the best of your ability and comfort level.

  • 02 of 08

    How Old are You?

    While some people don't mind telling their age, others are often offended. Don't ask someone's age, unless you are in the medical field and need to know for health reasons, you're selling a product that requires the buyer to be over a certain age, or you're a cashier offering a senior discount. Even then, it's a good idea to ask in a polite way. For example, you might say, "We offer discounts to seniors, so when you qualify you can save some money."

  • 03 of 08

    How Much Did You Pay for That House?

    Sold house
    akurtz / Getty Images

    Here is another money question that doesn’t deserve an answer. However, being the polite person you are, you might answer with something like, “I paid the going market value for houses in the neighborhood. It’s a very comfortable house that felt like home the minute I walked in the door.” Quickly change the subject to let the person know you are finished discussing house prices. If he or she still wants to know, the sale of a house is public record, and it can be found on the Internet by anyone who knows how to do a web search.

  • 04 of 08

    Are You Still Single?

    Two young women having coffee
    Felix Clinton / Stone / Getty Images

    Many single men and women in their late twenties and early thirties have heard this one. It’s a question asked by a well-meaning relative or close friend who wants you to be happy. However, hearing it over and over will make you anything but happy.

    If you are still single, tell the person that you haven’t found someone you want to spend your life with, but if you ever do, you’ll get the word out to everyone who needs to know. As with any other nosy question, change the subject.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Have You Gained (or Lost) Weight?

    Friends chatting on a park bench
    Keep your conversations off of weight gain or loss. Focus on something more relevant. Dougal Waters/Getty Images

    If the person comes out and asks about your weight change, it is probably obvious, and chances are you have put on (or lost) a few pounds or more. When someone comes right out and makes this terribly insensitive remark, smile and say, “I’m feeling wonderful. How about you?” That should get the point across that you don’t want to honor the rude question with an answer.

  • 06 of 08

    When Is Your Baby Due?

    Friend touching pregnant woman's stomach
    Robert Daly / Getty Images

    If you are pregnant, chances are you have announced it to everyone you want to know. There are times when women gain weight or wear certain outfits that make them appear pregnant when they haven’t gained an ounce.

    You have several ways to respond to this rude question. You can say you’re not pregnant and let the person cower in awkwardness and embarrassment (if the person is the type to get embarrassed), or you may give a date a few years away. When the rude person appears confused, say, “Bill and I thought we’d wait a couple of years before starting a family.”

  • 07 of 08

    When Do You Plan to Start a Family?

    Groomsmen and groom talking
    Lumi Images/Hudolin-Kurtagic / Getty Images

    Many newlyweds get asked this question. If a close friend or relative asks, you might want to give an honest answer. However, if the questioner is just a nosy busybody, say that the minute you said your wedding vows, you considered yourselves a family. Smile and change the subject.

  • 08 of 08

    More Rude Questions

    Young adults enjoying conversation during a meal
    Avoid rude or awkward questions with friends and coworkers. Andresr/Getty Images

    There is such an abundance of rude questions – and people who ask them – that you could spend all day thinking of answers and quips. Instead of wasting your valuable time, have a few standard replies that work in a variety of situations.

    Here are some examples of how to respond:

    • ”Why would you ask such a rude question?”
    • ”I have a policy not to discuss that topic with anyone it doesn’t concern.”
    • Pause, smile, and say, “Did you really just ask me that?”
    • ”I’m not even touching that topic. Let’s talk about something else."
    • ”Do you realize how rude that question is?”
    • Take a step back to gain some personal space and say, ”I’m not going to answer that question.”