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Ask Louise: How to deter a nosey parker

In this column, Louise Fox, founder of the Etiquette Ladies, answers all your social conundrums and questions about modern manners.

Two colleagues laughing at work

Photo, Getty Images.

Dear Louise,

I am friendly at work but I like to keep my personal relationships and my work relationships separate. My colleague is always asking me intrusive questions about my personal life. Some of her questions make me very uncomfortable and I am tempted to be brusque in return. What is the best way to respond to inappropriate questions about your personal life?

Perpetuating rudeness is never appropriate. However, there is nothing wrong with being assertive and stating you are uncomfortable answering her questions. You might simply state “I am uncomfortable answering that!” Or express surprise at the question and say: “I am surprised you are asking me such a personal question,” or “Why do you ask?” “Who wants to know?”

Sometimes humour helps in an uncomfortable situation. Laugh and say “Wow you sound like my mother/therapist/lawyer … (eye rolling is optional) don’t answer the
question and change the subject. Remember you shouldn’t feel obligated to answer a question that is too personal or makes you uncomfortable. You are not rude for refusing to answer; they are rude for asking.

Have a question for Louise? Email askaneditor@chatelaine.com.

Louise Fox, recognized as Canada’s Etiquette Expert, is the owner of The Etiquette Ladies and MannersTV.ca. She has over 20 years experience in hospitality and special-event-planning industries, and is Director of Eastern Operations of Civility Experts Worldwide and Certification Panelist and Master Trainer for the International Civility Trainers’ Consortium. She is a frequent guest on Breakfast TelevisionEntertainment TonightMTVBusiness News NetworkGlobal News and many others.