Parkland Press

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Respectfully Yours: Handle uncomfortable questions comfortably

Monday, February 3, 2020 by JACQUELYN YOUST Special to The Press in Focus

Dear Jacquelyn,

When I’m talking to new people at social events, they just go directly to the point and ask personal questions like, “What what are my plans after college?” I don’t want to come across as impolite. What do you say when you don’t want to answer a question?

Dear Reader,

When someone asks a question that you might interpret as impolite it conjures up uncomfortable emotions.

The best way to politely handle a difficult question is to give yourself a few moments to determine how you want to respond. Consider if you want to continue the conversation or change the subject.

The age-old tactic of avoidance always works. Try turning the question around. Keep your tone of voice friendly. You can say, “That’s a good question. Can you tell me about your experience after college?” Then close with “Thank you for sharing your experience.”

The other option you have when responding to uncomfortable questions is humor. You don’t have to directly answer the question. An example would be to say, “If only I knew,” said with a smile.

You certainly can be truthful and explain that you haven’t made concrete plans yet. When you are upfront and honest in a non-confrontational way, you command respect for your feelings and communicate your own personal boundaries.

You don’t need to provide a long-winded explanation. While you may think the question is aggressive, maybe the person simply wants to learn more about you.

Assume the other person has good intentions until they prove otherwise. He or she may be trying to make a genuine connection by being curious and friendly.

Always handle uncomfortable questions with confidence and sincerity.

Respectfully Yours,


Have a question? Email: Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training. She is on the board of directors of the National Civility Foundation.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Jacquelyn Youst