Did you really just ask me that question?

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

Have you read the blog post about the 10 types of moms that the blog author plans to avoid? Yes, the one with the click baity title. The one with the “I don’t mean anything by my conversation and questioning – I’m just curious” angle.

“I think we should amend that definition [of curious] just a little bit to something along the lines of, “eager to learn or know about something that pertains to you.” (Kat Boogard, Muse)

Asking about something that pertains to someone else could come across as nosy if you’re asking the other person to reveal personal information that doesn’t need to be shared. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have these conversations about sensitive topics with other parents.  But maybe asking for an elevator speech right off the top is not the best approach. If you take the time to get to know someone over time – and after many hours of conversation – there’s a good chance that you’re going to hear what it’s like to parent multiples, raise a child with special needs or any other topic that comes to mind. (Just thinking back to that “hey mums, you’re so touchy – I’m just curious and genuinely want to connect” post.)

The person who asked if I was my children’s nanny and then proceeded to ask a lot more questions about how they came from somewhere else (once informed that I wasn’t a nanny) wasn’t being nosy. Careless and inattentive? Yes. Nosy? Not so much.

What about the person who asked me if I’d used drugs in order to have twins? I “Oh you mean did I have intercourse before my children were conceived?” Or, putting it more bluntly, “Are we talking about my sex life?”

Yeh…. pretty nosy.

The person who keeps asking me more and more questions about how I met my husband, not accepting the answers that I have given, is being nosy.  Why do I say that? It’s the “yes but where/how…” replies that are repeated that are a dead giveaway. And by the way, most likely I have no idea how he/she met his/her partner. Does it really matter?

(His/her is awkward. I’ll continue using “her” only but this topic involves both genders.)

Spend time getting to know someone, and you might gain the insight that you are seeking. You’re also likely to see that person in action, interacting with children or revealing what life is like for her. Everyone’s entitled to have different feelings about certain types of questions. Some people don’t care if you ask them how they procreated, for example. Others do.

What’s the solution? Someone who barely knows your name or barely knows you, asks you a nosy question. You can tell that the information request is just about that person fulfilling a need for information. It’s not because there is a hope that you will start a meaningful friendship.  How should you respond?

  • Look back at the person silently but don’t answer.  Reveal a flash of a distracted look, like you were thinking about something else and didn’t hear the question, and then change the topic.
  • Give a vague answer back.
  • Give a vague answer back and (if you’re feeling irritated) ask that person the same question. Watch the squirming begin. It happens every time.
  • Ask “why do you ask?”.  This reply doesn’t work for questions that have a simple premise.  But it can work sometimes.

It’s always best to avoid deciding that you don’t want to talk with someone and get to know her just because she doesn’t want to pony up about certain areas of her life.  Deciding to write a post proving that these sensitive feelings are a bit much,and you really care, is not going to help your case. It’s likely that you don’t know and might never fully understand why someone doesn’t want to talk about a specific personal topic.

It would take a long time to walk those 1,000 miles in her shoes.

Let a person reveal herself, over time, in a way in which she feels comfortable.

Your patience will be rewarded.

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