How to deter busybodies when polite deflections fail? was unilaterally closed as asserted here.

After a substantial edit, I would like to ask the community to reopen my question.

If the Question is still considered too broad, is there anything else I can do to improve/fix the question?

  • "Some example questions:" what exactly are these questions examples of?
    – user288
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 3:26
  • 1
    @Hamlet examples of the questions the OP doesn't want to answer.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 3:37

2 Answers 2


Well, let's see...

  • You're describing a common scenario: someone is asking a question you don't want to answer.
  • You've searched the 'Net and found a number of general-purpose responses to such questions... That haven't worked.

So what should you learn from this? Perhaps this: people aren't simple machines whose behavior can be readily controlled with a small set of standard inputs.

For decades now, cartoonist Al Jaffee has written a series of Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions. They're entertaining because they capture the sort of responses we often wish we could give people... ...but unless you're willing to be known as the smart-mouth jackass who never gives a straight answer, they're not a template for effective (much less polite!) communication.

Which means... You're gonna actually have to tailor your response to the specific person asking and question being asked. As past examples here on IPS have illustrated, the appropriate response to nosy questions depends a LOT on why they're being asked; a "witty" response might diffuse the situation, break a sacred social convention, or even put your life in danger...

If you want help doing that, you're gonna have to give us a bit of context: locale, setting, cultural background, etc. Questions here are expected to be based on actual problems that you face - so sketch out that problem as context for your question.

  • 4
    people aren't simple machines whose behavior can be readily controlled with a small set of standard inputs. If ever there was a line that deserved +1000 it is that. Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 15:51

All four of those example questions have different non-standard responses. Part of what makes the non-standard responses "clever" is how they relate to the inquiry itself. You use these examples in your question:

2.1. Humour

“How much are you paid?” You could say, “Half what I’m worth!”

2.2. Half-Truths

"How much did that cost?” You could say, “Not as much as it looks like.” Or, “I got a good deal.”).

2.3. Changing the Subject

For example: “No, we’re not having kids. Hey, how about that turkey?” That’s a bad transition, and it can draw more attention to the already awkward moment. Instead, find a bridge. Something like, “No, we’re not having kids. We are planning a trip to Niagara Falls though! You’ve been there, right?” In this case, Niagara Falls is the bridge, and you’ve swiftly changed the subject.

2.4. Asking ITR for Advice:

One of my favorite ways to seamlessly change the subject is to ask the person for advice—a risky move, but it can work surprisingly well.

2.5. Asking about ITR's Intention:

Dr. Dave Popple, President of Psynet Group recommends directly asking about the person’s intention.

These answers can not be swapped out with each other or else they don't make sense.

Q: How much are you paid?
A: No, we're not having kids. Hey, how about that turkey?

Your question is a polling question where every answer fits a different question. These types of questions are specifically off topic on Stack Exchange.

With a question so broad, you'd end up with answers that look like:

If someone asks you how many nose hairs you have, you should tell them "Enough to keep the bugs out and the snot in!".

Well, great. If no one has ever asked you that, the information is useless to you.

We don't want one question that has all the answers that anyone could ever want because it's impossible to sift through. We want specific answers for specific situations where the people having the same problem can go in order to find a useful answer to their question. This way, when I ask how to respond when someone makes unnecessary inquiries about my nostril plumage, I have them all in one place.


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