How To Deal with Nosy People

Everyone Knows a 'Busy-Body' Who Minds Everyone Else's Business!

Image of distant relationship

Let's face it: nosy people and those with other irritating traits are everywhere.  It's not so rough when the person in question truly means well, but what do you do when she's just a difficult person to be around?  

She brings a home-made dish to your house so that she gets a chance to take a peek inside; she comes for a sleepover so that she can eye the dresses and shoes in your closet; she comes over and cooks up an excuse to saunter into your kitchen to look around for any new acquisitions (promptly asking where you got them from, and for how much); she asks you, "Are you pregnant?" each time you meet after your marriage; she reads your diary or cell phone messages when you're not around; she has to know where you got each outfit you put on your child, so that she can buy the same thing for hers, too. Then there's the office gossip who wants to know how much money each colleague is making, or the stranger you meet in the mall who asks you everything, from the due date to the gender of your baby-to-be, as soon as she sees your expectant state.

It does sound like an episode straight out of "Desperate Housewives", but in all honesty, there are certain people who, in their concern and love for others, do not realize that sometimes they are invading others' privacy. There's a difference between loyal and sincere friends/relatives who do the aforementioned things as a normal course of action, and those whose intention, from the start, is to find out the latest about others. The latter possess a tendency to discuss their findings, so you know that whatever they see or hear in your house will be passed on. They also tend to enthusiastically compete; they'll immediately go out and buy exactly what they saw you get. That is why one's guard comes up when such people call or visit.

Being asked personal questions is not such a big deal once in a while, but for some, it becomes a habit to get the latest scoop on others' lives. They keep crossing the line whenever you meet them. Therefore, instead of letting them get to you in such a bad way that they ruin the rest of your day, you should know how to handle, and get around, their questioning techniques.

  1. Quickly change the subject. As soon as a fresh volley comes your way, deftly dodge the bullet and, in an abrupt shift of conversation-mode, glance in another direction and excitedly say something else, like, "Oh what a nice outfit! This color is one of my favorites!" Or, "Would you like something to drink?" Or, "Let me check what the baby is doing." Proceed to talk about the new subject.
  2. Break off eye contact. Proceed to get up (if you're sitting) and walk to another place. Rummage through your handbag as if you remembered something. Pick up the newspaper or magazine and leaf through it. Take out your cell phone and go through your text messages.
  3. Answer a question with a vague answer. You could learn to answer, "So what is your husband's salary?" with, "The same as others in his position," or, "Oh, he's doing just fine, why don't you ask him?" This method does not work with the stubborn variety of inquisitive people, though. They just continue asking with even more persistence.
  4. Take a deep breath, and keep silent. No one can force you to say something you don't want to. Let them keep asking again and again. If they don't get an answer, they will hopefully take the hint and stop.
  5. Demarcate boundaries. When such people call on you, keep the rest of the house dark, and limit their movement to the living room. Don't give them chances to move around near the bedrooms, bathrooms, closets or the kitchen -- because if they do, they'll just get more fodder for their curiosity. You can keep new items you have recently bought out of sight, for the same reason.
  6. Minimize social interaction. You could opt to only sparingly include such people on your guest list, so that you see them only as much as you can handle. The intention is to keep the relationship intact; since they are unable to change themselves, they risk ruining their relationship with you permanently if they meet you too often. It is best to keep house calls, phone calls, and social meetings with such people to a minimum. That could be weekly, monthly or the chance meeting; it depends on you.
  7. Don't show too much interest when they gossip about others with you. If you lap up the latest news they dish out about others, you are not helping their case -- you are worsening it. When they start talking about others, don't take interest. Apply the above tips to the conversation then as well.
  8. Be upfront. When all else fails, just go ahead and tell them, directly but tactfully, that their curiosity turns you off and you'd rather they did not ask you such personal questions. In time, maybe they'll appreciate the favor you've done them.

As they say, one should learn to accept the things one cannot change. You will have to learn to not get offended by those who ask too many questions. Think about it from their point of view. Maybe they really cannot control themselves; maybe nosiness is an innate part of their personality, the way we all possess flaws and shortcomings. What you can control, though, is your own reaction to situations involving the company of such people.


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I have LOADS of people like that in my life, so thanks for the advice. And the caution is VERY true.

By Kashy Ali

This is a great article. I have a couple people in my life that quite often take me by surprise with their nosiness. You've offered up some great tips to keep in mind.

By Marion Cornett