Skip to content

7 Polite Ways to Deflect Rude Questions, Etiquette Experts Say

You don't have to answer something just because you've been asked.

As human beings, we're naturally curious people. But we've all been stuck in a conversation at some point where the other person crosses the line with their inquiries. When you're hit with a rude question, your first reaction may be to freeze. Then you might start racking your brain for a response that isn't indignation. But you don't have to spiral or give an answer you aren't comfortable giving. Read on for seven polite ways to deflect rude questions.

RELATED: 6 "Polite" Things You're Doing That Are Actually Rude, Etiquette Experts Say.

Use "I" statements.

 young man talking to his senior father while spending time at home together

When you're asked a rude or insensitive question, one of the most polite things you can do is take ownership over the fact that you don't want to answer it. That's why Stacy Thiry, LMHC, a licensed therapist from Grow Therapy, recommends using "I" statements in these situations, as in "I'm not comfortable answering that question at this time."

"This is a calm and assertive way to communicate a boundary with another person while not placing blame and instead taking ownership of your feelings," Thiry shares.

RELATED: 6 Questions You Should Never Ask a Woman, Etiquette Experts Say.

Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Group of senior men of various backgrounds having a friendly chat in the front yard of one man while he is raking the leafs. Bright fall scene on the road in the North American city.

People may not realize that they're asking something they shouldn't be. Acknowledge that by responding with something along the lines of, "I believe your intention is good, but I'm not sure how that is relevant or appropriate to ask," Thiry says.

"Giving benefit of the doubt and acknowledging the person's good intentions can disarm and neutralize any negative energy while also still allowing you to challenge the person's intention behind asking the question," she explains.

Ask a question in return.

group of people talking in the woods with focus on woman asking question in yellow sweater

If you're not willing to come right out and say that you're uncomfortable with the question being asked, answer back with another question instead. Thiry advises that you first acknowledge the question, and then give your own: "What an interesting question. I'm curious to know why you asked that/what made you ask?"

"Using a question to answer a question is an effective way to shift the focus onto the other person," she says. "It can also help gain clarity as to why they may feel it appropriate to ask."

RELATED: The 4 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Server, Experts Warn.

Redirect the conversation.

student talks to her mentor redirecting conversation while sitting together

Similarly, you can deflect things by redirecting the conversation to the other person, according to Caitlin Weese, LCSW, a trauma therapist with Intuitive Healing and Wellness LLC. So instead of answering with a question, Weese suggests replying with a statement or request that still sidesteps the conversation.

"You can respond, 'Let's not focus on me, I want to hear about you,'" she says. "This shows interest in the other person while to allowing you to avoid a rude or uncomfortable question."

Use body language cues.

coworkers having discussion in hallway

You don't always have to rely on your words to convey how you're feeling, however. "Don't underestimate the power of non-verbal cues," Phillippa Quigley, a health and wellness coach working with Soma Analytics, says.

If you want to signal your discomfort to politely deflect a rude question, you can cross your arms or slightly step back, according to Quigley.

"This is a subtle way of letting someone know they've crossed a line without a word spoken," she notes.

RELATED: 5 Body Language Signs You Should Never Ignore From Your Partner, Therapists Say.

Make a joke.

Young woman laughing at the head of a table while hosting a dinner party for a group of diverse young friends at her home

If you're looking for the "least confrontational way" to dodge certain questions, turn your response into a joke, Thiry recommends. You can say something like, "I'm not sure this crowd/audience is ready for the answer to that question," but make sure you add a laugh to really drive home the playfulness in a polite way.

"Humor is a great way to add levity to an uncomfortable situation," Thiry points out.

For more etiquette advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Be short and direct.

Two close senior friends are sitting on a park bench, spending time together talking about life and using social media.

People are often afraid to clearly assert their boundaries or position, because they're worried about being mean. But Thiry says that being direct or definitive may be exactly what you need to do in this type of situation.

"We often feel the need to explain or over-explain as a result of people-pleasing, avoiding confrontation, or conditioning," she says. "Sometimes an assertive and confident 'that's what I decided' is all we need to say."

The way you respond with your directness is also extremely important, Boston-based psychotherapist Angela Ficken tells Best Life.

"Calmly express yourself," she advises. "Maintaining a polite tone while asserting your privacy helps maintain a respectful conversation."

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more