Intrusive questions: where to put a limit?

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Joe Dispenza

Intrusive questions: where to put a limit?

Intrusive questions lead us to ask ourselves where the other person is going. These questions break the basic rules of conversation and can make us feel bad. We don't want to answer, but we don't want to hurt our interlocutor either. In this article we explain how to deal with them.

Last update: July 14, 2021

We don't know what to answer to intrusive questions: they are perceived as out of place. They are linked to our intimacy, they do not adapt to the level of confidence we have with our interlocutor. Many may also show undertones of reproach or conceal a form of resentment due to confrontation. What they have in common is that they make us feel uncomfortable and force us to adopt a defensive attitude.

Intrusive questions are not asked because there is a real interest in the other. These are questions like: how much rent do you pay per month? Wouldn't you like to change your apartment? Will you have other children?

Sometimes they are not even asked in the form of a question: they are simply inappropriate comments. In this article we ask ourselves: where to put a limit? In case we have to give an answer to the intrusive questions, how can we do it intelligently?

Intrusive questions: when we don't know what to answer

As a rule, we prefer to know rather than ignore. Or this is what is usually said, that it is normal for people to want to know about others. In this sense, the intimacy of others can arouse great curiosity. As with natural phenomena, we like to know the origin of what happens and this origin often lies in the motivations that push people to act in a certain way.

However, when the other tries to go beyond what the situation and the degree of confidence allow, an unpleasant feeling appears. Probably why pushy questions violate a set of unwritten rules, protocols and premises necessary to make communication flow.

There are questions that are best not asked to someone we have just met or in the presence of other people, whom you may know, but the other person does not. It is a rule that has to do above all with education.

The degree of exposure on social networks or the fact that most of us have a public profile can project the feeling that previously valid rules have somehow become obsolete. However, face-to-face interactions haven't evolved in just that sense. It almost seems like we don't need them anymore and they are becoming less significant.

Some of the more common intrusive questions are: how much do you make? How old are you? Will you get married soon? Will you have children? Are you working?

How to react to intrusive questions?

Intrusive questions can lead to unpleasant situations because you have to answer an unexpected question during a conversation. An intrusive question makes us think that the other may not have wanted to give you that feeling, so try to get rid of it by trying to make the interlocutor understand that you do not want to go down that path, but without offending him.

Intrusive questions are rarely asked to provoke, although we certainly don't like rudeness. Usually a person who often asks intrusive questions has a tendency to repeat them. How we respond will determine whether or not we should keep asking these kinds of questions.

Depending on the situation, you may choose to apply a straightforward strategy and tell the other that we don't want to respond. Perhaps at first our response will interrupt the dialogue and create some sort of barrier, but we must ensure that this does not affect the long-term relationship.

Good humor and assertiveness: the least problematic answer

Let's imagine we are with a friend and her partner. We tell her about our recent travels and he asks us what work we do "to earn a lot and travel". In this case, we don't want to give a wrong answer, but we don't want to share information either that there have been requests.

We can answer with a simple one: “I love my job, that's why I can afford to do all these trips” or “well, I'm very good at my job, that's why I can travel a lot”. Or, simply, we can be even more assertive and say "I do a great job, my friend will tell you one day".

The most direct and indiscreet questions also tend to be the most intrusive: How old are you? You are married? How much do you earn? Surely these are not questions we like, but we can always answer with a useful “I don't remember well” or with a smile; better than with a "none of your business".


Allowing or tolerating intrusive questions is not the same as allowing them to ruin our day. For this reason, although it is paradoxical, responding in a pleasant way will ease the tension, that of the whole environment and will create limits made of respect and assertiveness, not of confrontation.

After all, we are not responsible for the little or no education of others at any given time, but we can certainly avoid them ruining our day. However, to prevent, we can avoid pushy people, so that the next time they want to know something about you, “they'll have to buy a book”.

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