Uncomfortable Questions and How to Deal with Them

Aug 15, 2018 | English Confidence and Fluency, English Conversation

One of the challenges of speaking in another language is that we can be more easily caught off guard when asked uncomfortable questions like… So, why don’t you have kids yet? Why aren’t you two married yet? How’d you lose your job? Why are you still single?

And the list goes on. The truth is, we all have nosy neighbors or colleagues. Or sometimes someone is just a little too curious.

Sometimes people ask questions they wouldn’t normally ask or that they know they shouldn’t! Those kinds of uncomfortable questions shock you. In fact, you might be thinking, “Seriously?!? Did you just ask that?” 

But in the moment, you feel worried or stressed about how you should deal with the question. It’s difficult to know what to do or say in your second language.

In today’s Confident English lesson, you’ll get several strategies of how to deal with uncomfortable questions and specific examples you can start using today.

My strategies for uncomfortable questions in English.

Lesson by Annemarie

Strategies for How to Deal with Uncomfortable Questions + Examples

Play Them At Their Own Game

In other words, instead of answering the question, ask an uncomfortable question in response. I only recommend this if you know the person well and you can control your English intonation so it sounds more like a joke. For example:

  • Why don’t you tell me how much you weigh first?
  • You first. How much money do you make?
  • Well, first, why aren’t you married yet?

Politely Address It

This is my preferred strategy. The best way to immediately respond to uncomfortable questions is a polite comment such as:

  • I’m so sorry, I don’t like talking about that.
  • I’d rather not discuss that.
  • I don’t want to get into that.
  • I’d rather not discuss this now/here.
  • Sorry is it okay if we change the subject?  So, ice-cream, strawberry, chocolate or vanilla?
  • Sorry, is it okay if we talk about something else?
  • I don’t really feel comfortable discussing that.

Sorry is it okay if we change the subject? So, ice-cream, strawberry, chocolate or vanilla?” — a great way to change the subject!

Be Direct

If the question is particularly inappropriate and you need to be more direct, try one of these common phrases:

  • That’s a bit direct, I’m not going to answer that.  
  • That’s a bit forward to ask that.
  • You are making me uncomfortable. I don’t want to answer that.
  • That’s a bit personal, surely you don’t expect me to answer that?
  • I am surprised you would ask something so personal.
  • Wow! Are you seriously asking me that? (Note: This is very casual/informal.)  
  • I’m gonna pretend you didn’t just ask that.

Call Them Out

When someone refuses to stop asking; when they keep pushing and being intrusive, here’s how to let them know it’s not okay:

  • I can’t believe you are asking that. It’s really inappropriate.
  • I won’t answer that and you really shouldn’t be asking.
  • It is not okay to ask that.
  • That is very rude to ask.
  • You really shouldn’t ask people things like that.
  • Why are you asking me?
  • Why do you need to know?
  • I was taught not to ask questions like that.

Brush It Off with A Joke

Finally, if you’re comfortable enough, you can simply have a laugh about it by making a joke and not answering the question. Again, for these responses, it’s all about your intonation in English:

  • That’s for me to know and you to never find out.
  • I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
  • Wouldn’t you love to know?
  • I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave you in suspense on that one… forever.
  • You seem to want to know everything, would you like to read my diary also?
  • My lips are sealed on that

After you’ve had a chance to watch the video and review the lesson, I’d love to hear from you on two questions:

  1. Have you ever had someone ask you some uncomfortable or inappropriate questions? What happened? How did you handle the situation? Do you have advice for someone else?
  2. What is one new phrase or expression you learned in today’s lesson?

The best place to share with me is in the comment section below. I read all comments and provide feedback. It’s also a great place to share and learn from others in the Confident English Community.

Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

~ Annemarie

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