Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Do you not answer questions that make you uncomfortable?

Asked by JLeslie (47556 points ) April 5th, 2011

If someone asks you something point blank, and you find them forward, or you just don’t want to answer because the truth might hurt them, do you ignore the question like it was not even asked? If in person maybe you quickly change the subject. If over text or email, maybe you just never reply at all to that question.

Basically, to me, I find this passive aggressive, I also call it “the silent treatment” if it happens a lot.

Someone I know says they are justified in such behavior if the asker should “know better” not to put someone on the spot like that. Or, the asker should take a clue and realize no answer means they don’t want to answer questions like that.

So maybe the asker should realize, but also maybe the other person could just say, “I prefer not to discuss it.”

What do you think about this type of interaction?

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24 Answers

geeky_mama's avatar

No, it’s completely against my nature. I err on the side of TMI in all things.. so if someone asked me something I either couldn’t or really didn’t want to answer I’d just say so, make a joke out of it..or laugh out of pure shock. I particularly hate passive-aggressive behavior (which is ironic, because my current state of residence, MN, raises this to a fine art, apparently.. they say it’s a stoic/Scandanavian “quality” in the people who’ve largely settled here).

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

If I don’t want to answer a question, I simply say that I’d rather not talk about it at the moment. If the other person persists, I leave.

Mariah's avatar

I do often avoid questions if I deem them too personal, but I am usually pretty open about most things and so it doesn’t happen too often. Some people just don’t seem to have any concept of what’s okay to ask, though. I guess I don’t handle these situations particularly well – I could definitely find a more graceful way of letting them know that that question is not okay. Usually I’m just caught off guard – some things, you just don’t expect to get asked. I agree that it’s a bit passive aggressive, though, especially if the question asked wasn’t really “out there” and you’re just trying to spare feelings or something by not answering.

Example: so I dropped a class in college due to health problems, right? And I told the professor why I had to drop, and later on this kid from that class approaches me out of nowhere: “You’re in my class, right?”
“Oh, actually I just dropped it.”
“I know. I heard you talking to the professor.” (Okay, so random guy was apparently creeping behind me listening to my conversation, cool)
“Oh…......kay.”
“So I’m guessing you don’t just have, like, a cold or something.” (Unstated question hanging awkwardly in the air.)
“Uh, no. I don’t have a cold.”
At that point I made up some excuse as to why I had to leave and ran away. Just. Too. Weird. Did I handle it badly? Sure. Do I feel bad about it? Not one bit.

faye's avatar

I try to turn it away with a joke like playing shocked they would ask, and then say I don’t want to talk about that. Though there isn’t much I won’t talk about.

blueiiznh's avatar

I am pretty much an open book. If a person asks me a question, they best be prepared to hear the answer.

On the other side of that, when and where appropriate, I will give an answer of “It’s none of your business” if it truly is none of their business.

DeanV's avatar

I see no reason to if they make me uncomfortable.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

If I ask someone a question and it gets side-stepped, I consider it a “It’s none of your business” topic. I don’t find that passive-aggressive.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There is not such thing. No question makes me uncomfortable.

JLeslie's avatar

@Mariah What if the person is a friend or family? Not some random student in your class.

Mariah's avatar

@JLeslie I can’t think of much that a friend of family member could ask me that would make me uncomfortable. I’d answer. It’s just weird coming from complete strangers.

ddude1116's avatar

Usually, I like questions that are incredibly forward because it makes me truly consider myself and my feelings, but in the instances I simply do not care to answer, I say so. Depending on the question and the asker, it changes, yeah, I wouldn’t discuss myself as freely with people whose opinion of me I’m worried about.

stemnyjones's avatar

Well, it depends on who is doing the asking.

If it was my best friend or girlfriend, I would tell them.

If it was a more distant friend or relative, how I responded would depend on what the question was and what the motive behind them asking it was. If they were asking something to criminalize me (ie, I’m complaining about being broke and they ask when was the last time I went out somewhere), I answer them, but I answer them in a way that very clearly lets them know that they need to back off.

If they were asking something with good intentions but the question was a little too personal, I’d probably give them a look like did you really just ask me that?

john65pennington's avatar

This is exactly why I never discuss politics or religion.

Many a friend has been lost because of such discussions.

everephebe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, I find that hard to believe. I mean, I’m sure I could come up with at least one question that would make you feel uncomfortable.

I like intentionally misleading people who ask those uncomfortable questions, by answering with a truth that they will interrupt the wrong way. Or deflecting, lying, avoiding, or ignoring those questions. Sometimes when it’s appropriate, and can do no harm, I flatter and charm. Many times, I just flat out tell the truth when I know I shouldn’t really. Kind of like, you’ll get what you asked for. How was my day? Excessively shity, and from what I can tell it’s only going downhill from here. Why, how was your day? I would love to be honest and answer all questions and in the way I want to, but sometimes tact is needed much more to maintain the societal status quo. I remember my mom once asked me four or five questions in rapid succession, that were just so hard to answer comfortably… And I said, “Ok Mom, I love you but what if your mom asked you…” And asked her five or so tough ones back about her life. She understood, how I felt after that, we even had a good laugh about it.

I tell anyone who can handle the truth, the truth, to any almost any question… Depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, you have to do some “spinning” for the folks who aren’t really minding their own business. I especially hate the judgmental, gossipy, condescending type of people asking these questions. I would love to respond, in say- physical violence- rather than a spin and a phony smile. So I avoid those people and their tedious and malicious conversation. Rather than give the silent treatment I usually just decline to answer as politely as I can.

Though… It is on occasion, better to assume some questions are rhetorical, and not deign to answer them.

augustlan's avatar

Psh. I’ll tell just about anybody just about anything. If it’s something I can’t tell them (say, someone else’s secret), I’ll let them know I’m not able to discuss it with them. If it were something that I felt was just too personal (I can hardly imagine what it would be, though), I’d probably joke, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”. If they persisted, I’d just tell them I wasn’t comfortable with discussing it.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I’ve responded with, “Are you asking that because you’re nosy, or do you have an actual reason why you need to know?” Sometimes, there’s been an actual reason.

downtide's avatar

It depends on who’s asking. If I’m not comfortable, I will usually say “I don’t want to answer that.”

JilltheTooth's avatar

I will sometimes say “Why are you asking that?” It’s a pretty effective way to shift the focus.

Brian1946's avatar

I have only one answer for that type of question: “I’ve only had one drink, officer”.

I find that usually throws the asker off track enough for them to change the subject, although I wish I had said something else when I was pulled over for a burnt-out headlight, and ended up having to take a field sobriety test . ;-p

Blackberry's avatar

I have no problem answering those questions. I would rather be asked than to be judged prematurely.

J0E's avatar

I’ll say “that’s none of your business.”

SpatzieLover's avatar

If I must, I will buy time.

Honestly though, I’m pretty much an open book. If someone point blank asks me a question where I think they are fishing for gossip, or for someone to agree with them on a particular stance, I am blunt. I will either out & out say “Look, this is the way it is…” or as in the case with some nasty gossips I know I will say, “I do not wish to be a part of your hurtful grapevine of gossip.”

mattbrowne's avatar

About two months ago I decided to no longer get involved in religious debates on Fluther, because I realized that aggressive atheism does indeed make me uncomfortable, even angry sometimes. I was always trying to keep an open mind and bridge the atheist-believer divide, but this effort failed. I think it can be accomplished in real life when people meet in person. I’m still involved in debates related to the political part, though.

stemnyjones's avatar

@mattbrowne I didn’t think of that aspect of it. I’ve slowed down a lot with religious AND political debates online, because it always seems to turn from logical, mature debates (if they even started that way, which is rare) into abusive name-calling. Then it just becomes another un-needed stressor in my stressful life of raising a toddler, being a full-time student, and trying to fix a broken relationship.

In person I don’t avoid conversation about religion, I just don’t personally bring it up or debate with someone unless they really want me to. My religious views are very slack so I don’t get emotional and defensive about it like some people do, so I generally avoid arguing about it just because it may unnecessarily upset them.

The only time that I do not hold back my opinion is when the person uses religion as an excuse to spread hatred and bigotry. Tell me I’m going to hell for being gay and I’ll really light a fire up under your ass.

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