How to deal with nosy people?

On 20161127, I was reluctant to arrange for a lunch together with a friendly, generous, yet nosy friend: A. However, since she has been very keen to meet Little Princess and she would be upset if I delay further, I gave in and arranged a meet-up with her.

A is most likely to be an extrovert, particularly ESFJ, who loves to tell anything about themselves but she expects the same from others, sometimes demanding information fiercely akin to a prosecuting attorney. However, I have learned that she also likes to tell personal things of her friends to others, hence I don’t feel comfortable divulging too many personal things to her.

I accept that some people are more private than others whereas some may offer (and expect) too much information.

Remember that we are entirely rightful to maintain our personal space and privacy.

To graciously and diplomatically deal with nosy people,

  1. give general & succinct response [2], don’t give nosy people every detail of information through face-to-face, instant messaging, emails.
  2. be kind to nosy people [5].
  3. use uncertainty, for example “I’m not sure yet” or “I haven’t decided yet” or “I’m trying to remember …” (give a pause, a smile or a giving-up look, and keep things secret).
  4. use deflection. Change to topics of conversation.
  5. don’t lie to nosy people and keep calm [3].
  6. use humor to politely keep things light and civil [1].
  7. adjust our Johari window.
  8. avoid if nosy people don’t get the above hints, for example “I’m sorry that I’m in a rush” or “Excuse me, I have to refill my plate.”
  9. pretend  that we do not hear nosy people as we run off to elsewhere.
  10. squirm (a non-verbal cue) or feign sleep if we are dealing with nosy hairstylist or dentist; they may not know other ways to interact with their clients apart from repeatedly questioning their clients.
  11. get something to read or fiddle with our phone to deal with nosy fellow passengers.
  12. don’t be too nosy ourselves.
  13. challenge the intruder calmly. Say “Please ask my permission before looking through my private possessions.”


[1] For example,
Nosy people: “How much are you paid?” or “What is your salary?”
Our humorous answer: “Half what I’m worth!” or “Much less that what had been invested on me”
Our direct response: “”My mentor/boss/parent (people of authority [4]) taught me never to discuss money/religion/politics” or “I was taught/adviced not to discuss money/religion/politics”

Nosy people: “How much did that cost?”
Our direct response (with right tone): “I got a good deal” (smiling/nodding)

Nosy people: “Why are you taking the day off?”
Our humorous response: “My coworkers are driving me crazy! Do you ever feel like that?”
Our direct response (with right tone): “I’m taking a personal day for personal reasons, of course.”
Our response using the powerful word because: “I’m taking a personal day, because I need the day off.”

When we give direct response, the person should get the idea (nicely) that we have finished providing information.

[2] For example,
Nosy people: “Where are you going to lunch/dinner?” or “Whom are you having lunch with?”
Our general answer: “I’m outside” (no need to say the specific restaurant/mall) or “with a friend” (no need to say the name).

[3] Lying and getting defensive makes nosy people to think that we have something to hide, to bother us more, or get offended/angry. It’s also hard to continue the pretense. Little Princess’ maternal grandfather mentioned about telling 9 out of 10 truthful things, the remaining 1 is the thing that we need to keep secret e.g. the amount of our savings.

[4] #pandaMnemonic RECoSAL

[5] For example, we are dining in a shared table.
Nosy person: “What is your birthday?”
Our protective, yet kind response: “When it’s near the date, I will ask for your availability for a meal together. The meal will be on me.”
We don’t want other people on the table to know too much private details!


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