Relational Advice: Asking the Nosy Question
Lesley Stahl offers advice on how to ask a nosy question. Her job, as a 60 Minutes correspondent, includes asking nosy questions. But I think the real gem of her advice is in this statement: “If it’s not 100 percent essential that you ask the question, don’t.” Don’t ask someone if she’s pregnant. Don’t ask your married friend why he isn’t wearing his wedding ring. Don’t ask a newlywed how his honeymoon was. Don’t ask the parent of a baby when she’s having another.
I used to volunteer with a sexual assault hotline. And when people found out, they invariably asked me if I had been assaulted. The question came in many forms, in many guises, but it always came. Since I have not been assaulted, it didn’t bother me. But what if I had? That kind of information is not something that can be shared casually. Putting a survivor of assault on the spot to discuss her past is unkind.
So examine your motives. Is the question coming from a place of genuine love and concern, or morbid curiosity? Are you judging the person and just trying to confirm your judgment? Avoid the nosy questions, or if you are acting with sincere love, ask gently. Tell the person they don’t have to answer if they don’t want to. Express your love and concern first. And don’t ask if there isn’t already enough intimacy to handle the answer.