Q: How do I keep people I meet at social gatherings from asking very personal questions? I have some good friends that I discuss anything and everything with, but I don’t feel I should discuss details of my life with anyone else. Please help.
A. You are correct, people you meet at social gatherings are not entitled to intimate personal details of your life. Moreover, there’s a chance that something you think is interesting may bore another person. For example, if someone asks you how you are feeling after your illness, a simple, “I’m back at work this week and really feeling better, thank you” should suffice. No need to tell them about that horrible virus you just went through that made you look anorexic.
Likewise, if someone asks you about your children after church on Sunday, just reply something like, “My son is working for a good company in Harlingen and my daughter works at her local hospital’s emergency room in Tennessee. They’re both doing well, thank you.” Any other details about job raises or promotions, current marital status are more information than most pleasant conversations require.
The question “How are you?” is particularly tricky for some people. It’s a simple greeting in our society and is not meant to elicit a detailed response. Although you may be tempted to go into an in-depth discussion of your failing health or your recent breakup, the only appropriate response to this question in a casual social meeting is “Just fine, thanks. How are you?” Don’t go into: “I’m a little better tonight. My psychiatrist changed my anti-depression medicine, and I feel less like slitting my wrists.” Or this response: “I’ve never been worse, my ex-spouse’s attorney just sued me for more child support and my car was repossessed, and I’m waiting to hear how my EKG came out.”
Remember, you don’t have to answer probing questions about your finances, your marital history, or anything else that you’d rather keep private. Deal with a nosy person courteously but directly by looking him/her straight in the eye and asking, “Why do you ask?” or stating “I’d rather not talk about that.” Doing so usually stops the current course of the conversation and allows you to introduce a new topic.
Irma Wolcott is the owner of Fun With Etiquette. Call her at 956-492-4762 for more information. Website: www.funwithetiquette.com e-Mail her at: email@example.com