Don’t shudder in fear when an aunty is near.
Picture this: You’re on your way to yet another family gathering, where aunties, uncles and cousins unite to gossip, laugh and be all up in your business. You’re an independent millennial, partially married to your job and, although dating is fun, you’re perfectly alright without a man by your side. But you know that as soon as you step into that room full of relatives, questions are going to fly: “Darling, we never see you. You shouldn’t work so much. When will you have the time to find a husband?” and “Time you settled down, no? Have you put on weight?”
We’ve all fallen victim to interfering family members sticking their noses into our private lives and shamelessly embarrassing us. As a result, visiting the homes of relatives or attending reunions become unnecessarily draining. And even though we can’t really tell them to stuff it when the questions become too personal, all is not lost. Here are a few ways you can navigate these treacherous waters without offending anyone, too much.
Change The Subject
Making a joke or giving an abrupt reply to a nosy query might lead to the person asking the question not getting the hint, or not caring. If this is the case, give a short answer and move on to a different topic, but make sure the transition is smooth. “No, aunty, I’m not in the market for a new man, but I did just get into the MBA programme at the University of Colombo! Didn’t you study there?”
A slick change of subject should push your aunty (or uncle) into reminiscing about the good old days when they went to university. People love talking about themselves, so including them in your response will move the attention from you to them. They get to chat more about their lives, and you don’t have your life decisions questioned anymore. Win-win!
Spin It Around
Avoid a question by responding in turn with another question. “When are you getting married?” can be countered with, “When are you?” or “When is your daughter tying the knot?” You could also make a comment like, “Did you have a lot of time to think up such a fascinating question?”
By turning the question back on to them, you’re not just avoiding the need to answer, you’re also sending a clear message that you don’t intend to. Chances are they’ll realise they’ve crossed a line and be ready to move on, and hopefully not attempt to ask you anything further.
Even if you get a question that makes your blood boil – “Have you stepped on the scale recently?” – don’t react—just pretend you have no idea what’s going on. Act puzzled. There might be a follow up question for emphasis – “Child, have you put on weight?” – but continue to look mystified. Your relative will either be rendered speechless or make someone else their focus. This approach might be a little self-diminishing, but if it gets the job done, why not? Alternatively, you can adopt selective hearing and pretend you missed the initial query. Waste no time in starting a new conversation with someone else to ensure that this pesky one is well and truly done.
Join Them In Pondering Their Question
So, your sister-in-law throws a really insensitive question your way: “How did you land that cool job?” It’s pretty offensive and suggests that you lack the skills or the personality needed for this new profession. Tackle it by acting surprised and exclaim, “You know what? I was just wondering the exact same thing!” Chances are, the question stems from jealousy and by seemingly agreeing with her you nip any further conversation in the bud, and can move away from the people getting you down.
Humour Goes A Long Way
When attacked by snide questions – “When is your hubby getting a better paying job?” – and you’re out of options, defuse the situation by keeping things light. Although the question ignores all levels of courtesy, the best way to respond is to laugh, turn to hubs and ask, “Good question! Darling, when will you be promoted to MD?” or deflect the inquiry by turning it back on your relative, “Why? Do you know anyone who’s hiring?” Giving a lighthearted response will display that you aren’t taking the question too seriously and will, hopefully, get your family member off your back.
The Direct Approach
It’s easy to get defensive the moment someone asks you about a sensitive topic. So it’s perfectly alright if you want to be honest and tell them that their question is off limits. Respond by conveying how you feel, but guide them onto another subject. “I don’t really want to discuss this right now, so perhaps we can talk about something we both enjoy.” This will convey your displeasure loud and clear. Rest assured, your folks will not bother you with any further questions.
Most people, especially family, tend to create uncomfortable situations for others. This leads to long, awkward silences and irritation, which are enough to turn any gathering sour, and prevent you and yours from reconnecting. (You’d want to get out of there, pronto!) Additionally, a spark of anger on your part will only reward your relative’s inquisitive behaviour. But with these tactics in hand, you won’t have to run for the hills; you’ll be dodging cringe-worthy questions like a pro!
This article was originally published as ‘Are Uncomfortable Questions Dragging You Down? Deflect Them Like A Pro.’ in the March 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more life advice and tips, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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