How to tell people to stop asking me questions (without sounding like a dick)

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Post by Andrew Corvero on Fri May 29, 2015 11:50 pm

OK, so I really didn't want to discuss this but it's becoming an issue that is causing me a lot of trouble and isn't helping my depression, so I thought I might ask for advice.

What happened a few days ago is that there was an information leak about a crime that my father has committed a few years ago. The crime is a part of a scandal which is now being reported on by the local newspapers where I live so now everyone knows the details (thanks in no small part to social network and word of mouth).

I have a very strained relationship with my father, I hate talking to him or about him and while I knew what he did and how long he served I've carefully avoided talking about it with my coworker and friends, so the news has come as quite a shock to many of them and they've ve started asking me questions or trying to probe for details in an indirect way.

I've brushed off all attempts to discuss the issue, politely at first then more and more bluntly as time went on. I might actually have been a bit of a dick to some people because the subject is extremely painful for me. I've already apologized to some friends and acquaintances, and explained them that it's a matter that I really don't want to discuss, but basically every time someone mentions the argument the first instinct of my brain is to snap and shout at them to shut the fuck up.

How do I deal with this? I'm sure that a lot of people will approach me about this subject in the next few days, which already sounds like a nightmare to me. I wish I could just leave the country and move where nobody knows or cares about my father, but a) that's not really possible b) I don't want to lose people I care about.


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Post by reboot on Sat May 30, 2015 12:04 am

Captain Awkward has some good scripts for dealing with this. Here are some of mine. Ihave some relatives in prison so have tested them out in a similar situation

"I prefer not to discuss this with people outside my family"
(since you are not close to your dad) "I have no idea. My father and I are not close"
(for those who you feel close to) "I am upset by all this and do not want to talk about it. Also, would you help change the topic if it comes up?"
A blank stare and a topic change
A noncommittal "Hum" and a topic change

If people do not take the hint, feel free to get rude since they are being rude.
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Post by eselle28 on Sat May 30, 2015 1:34 pm

I second the suggestion to use scripts. One more that might work: "I don't know much more about it than what's been reported on the news." After one attempt to shut down the conversation, I'd say break out the "Huh" response.

Although it's kind of you to think of these people's feelings, they're being astonishingly inconsiderate and rude. Only so much politeness is due in return. Since it sounds like you're having a lot of stressful interactions in a short period of time, maybe you want to take a breather evening with a reliable person who can be supportive (or just some me time) so you can have a little time off from this sort of thing.
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Post by Andrew Corvero on Sat May 30, 2015 2:15 pm

Although it's kind of you to think of these people's feelings, they're being astonishingly inconsiderate and rude. Only so much politeness is due in return.

The people that are close to me are more considerate, of course, and although I have reacted in a bad way a couple of times I've also apologized in time and they've said that they understand, so it's basically settled with them.

It's the strangers or the acquaintances that I'm not really familiar with who are asking more questions (although, to be fair, mostly very politely, so even though my instincts are screaming for me to snap I want to show them some consideration).

One guy harassed my grandmother with some questions, though, and she's an old lady with some heart issues who really doesn't need the stress. I literally told him to fuck off and I don't feel a bit sorry for it. Inconsiderate prick.

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"People don't just change who they are in an instant. It takes time, so you don't even know you're changing. Until one day you'll just a little bit different than you used to be and you can't even tell what the hell happened" (Rich Burlew)

"You shouldn't take advice from random strangers on the Internet too seriously" said the random stranger on the Internet.
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Post by PintsizeBro on Sat May 30, 2015 3:13 pm

I don't even think your strained relationship with your father is immediately relevant to this - if you and he were close, it would still be painful to discuss, just for different reasons.

Strangers and acquaintances are asking questions because they're curious and not close enough to you to consider how hurtful they are being. How do they expect you to respond? How do they think you must feel about this? The answer of course is that they're not thinking about you at all. In a fair or just world, they would apologize to you for asking such inappropriate questions.

Reboot's scripts are good. Hold to the knowledge that if someone gets upset with you for using one, they are being a dick, not you.

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Post by Caffeinated on Sat May 30, 2015 6:14 pm

One more script to add (I don't remember if I first saw in Captain Awkward or Dear Abby) is: "Why do you ask?" If the person is a decent sort, this should help them realize that what they're doing is inappropriate. If they're not, you can move on to things like "I'm not going to talk about that with you" or "No comment" or "Huh", and if they're really persistent, you can straight up snap at them without feeling like you're being a jerk since they're being a jerk to you in the first place.
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