Why Do We Ask Nosy Questions?

Now and then every single one of us – man or woman – asks a question that we immediately regret asking. Oh, shoot, why did I say that? Even before the complete thought left our mouth, we suddenly realized with horror how stupid or inappropriate it was. A rather common example is asking an overweight acquaintance when the baby’s due, or just as rude, asking a childless couple when they’re going to start a family. There’s really no way to un-ask a question we had no right asking.

Before any of us ask nosy, rude questions, it would be beneficial for any teen or adult, as well as the victim, if we back-pedaled. Why do we even want to know the information? Is knowing that answer going to help the person whose privacy we’re invading? Sometimes, the answer is a definite Yes, or at least a Probably. Are we then going to don our superhero outfit and fix the related problem? Probably not, unless that’s our normal lifestyle, but at least our motivation is more charitable. We just need to be careful we don’t unintentionally hurt another.

We’re all human and we tend to shoot off our mouths just because we think we can, as though we’d turned into lifelong typical teenagers. (Some of our youth would put us to deep shame with how well-mannered and considerate they can be!) But the concept of free speech can get us in a whole lot of trouble as a society.

Consider the Consequences

Too many people haven’t been taught to consider consequences. We are free to say whatever we want, even morally obligated to, in some circumstances, but we’re never free to choose the consequences, good or bad. That concept can be one of the hardest things a child (or adult) ever masters.  Kudos to parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and instructors in all areas who help them learn to pause for a minute before speaking out.

Anticipating what might happen also involves learning to be assertive and learning when discretion is the better part of valor. This is so hard. Even as adults we don’t always know if we’re going to get slapped down for asking a simple question of the wrong person at the wrong time and place. So, it’s doubly difficult for kids, especially if they’re curious about something they see. What’s wrong with that lady, Mom? is a perfectly innocent question from a young child still learning our world has disabled or disadvantaged people in it. Yet the same question coming aloud from someone older is just plain rude.

Other Rude Questions

At other times, the things people say or do seem to come from a mind that’s on autopilot. Something crabby or snide comes from them every day at morning coffee break! It can be hard to counter such a negative person. However, we can try to have something positive ready to say, without being a perennial Pollyanna.

In some worlds, every Sunday at church, negative people turn on their iPad audio during worship service to prove to everyone else how bored they are, that their lives are more important than listening to God’s words from the Scriptures. They may even do this at their peril during a long-winded dancing bear act at the office. Usually the same grown-ups every time. We find ourselves avoiding such people, since trying to correct them with love can be met with a snarl or an intentional repeat, a pathetic I’ll show you!

Birds of a feather often hang together rather than separately. The group members take turns asking questions that don’t help anyone: So, are you guys married now? Were you married in church? Ohh. Why not? And for my Latter-day Saint friends, the pièce de résistance question: Were you married in the temple? When the answer is No, as mine was years ago, the disapproval is palpable, the inference being that my husband and I had obviously been immoral and didn’t qualify. Many reasons exist for a non-church or non-temple marriage, folks. None of them are anyone else’s business. Engage brain before putting mouth in gear, or just put a sock in it.

What to Do

Sometimes we can only consider the abominable source of the question and freeze it in place or spray it till it leaves the room. Such people will probably never change and trying to make friends of them tends to be futile, though not always. They mostly want juicy tidbits obtained through their rudeness to fuel their all-consuming gossip addiction. The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, loves everyone but He doesn’t always love their behavior or even their personality.

In Luke 13:32, the Savior refers to Herod Antipas as “that fox” and he isn’t being complimentary at all. In Jewish culture, a fox was considered much lower than a lion. The Herodian dynasty was cruel and tyrannical, but also rather inept.

It’s written in John 2:14-16 and Matthew 21:12-16 that Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple with a whip. His House was supposed to be a House of Prayer, not a den of thieves.

To sum up:

  • Do we ask to know something out of genuine concern, so we can help a person? Perhaps we can comfort him or her, especially if we’ve been through a similar trial ourselves.  Blessings await, if so.
  • Do we want fuel for the salacious side of ourselves? Let’s not ask the question.
  • Do we want to be the first to know something, something no one else knows? Why? Are we that insecure in ourselves?
  • Do we repeat what we’ve heard to people that we’re sure, or strongly suspect, will pass it on to everyone they know? Why do we want to stab someone else in the back?
  • Have we even considered the resulting devastation of our thoughtlessness? Please, stop and think how we would feel if the situation were reversed.
  • Can we recall our words and fix the damage we’ve caused? I think not. Consider any of the versions of Feathers in the Wind, an old Jewish tale, available through a Google search.

When Someone Asks Us a Nosy Question

How do we react when someone asks us an impertinent, nosy question, such as How much of a raise did you get this year? or How much did you pay for that engagement ring? or Are you and Harry dating? You could tell them and then change the subject, I suppose. Personally, I’ve started asking them, Why do you ask? That stops them dead in their tracks as a rule and they’ll turn away in a huff. Sometimes they mumble that they were just curious. Don’t take the bait and give them what they want! Just let it be.

Other approaches might include asking if they realize how disrespectful they’re being. If they give you a blank stare, explode, or don’t change in the future, give them a wide berth.

It’s always better to be polite to avoid lingering resentment but the time comes when you have to be assertive and firmly decline to answer.

When Someone Wants to Share Gossip

What can we do when someone is about to share a piece of gossip? If they’re a repeat offender and our brain is thinking Here we go again, we can tell them: I really don’t want to hear about that, or Don’t tell me! and then move off, if we can make our way through a huddle of people fellowshipping each other or those brown-nosing the visiting CEO.

If the person isn’t known for tale-bearing, you might cut them some slack this once, but let them know it had better be important because it isn’t kind to tattletale.


If I can succeed in getting one rude person to stop prying into the private affairs of others by asking nosy questions, and instead, find quiet ways of giving compliments and taking other actions to build up someone, I will feel that the day or week has been a good one.

Disclaimer: My blog posts are statements of opinion only. I am not in the business of giving financial, legal, medical, or any other type of advice. See Terms of Use and Disclaimer for further disclaimers.

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