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How should I handle invasive questions from friends?

Published: June 28, 2014 | By | 29 Replies Continue Reading
If you feel like questions from friends are invasive, you have to figure out why you feel that way.


Hi Irene,

If my friends ask me what I am doing this weekend and I tell them I am doing such and such with a friend, they always proceed to ask me who I am doing it with.

I never ask this of my friends for I feel it is rude and if I wanted to share that information with them I would tell them who I was with. I feel it’s an invasive question but get it all the time.

How should I respond without telling them they are being rude? I am a 55-year-old woman!

Signed, Linda


Dear Linda,

There are a number of possibilities; here are a few to consider:

1) Some people are more private than others and are only willing to provide sparse information about their lives and goings on, even to close friends. On the other hand, some may offer (and expect) too much information, probably more than is called for given the nature of the friendship. You can well imagine how this might be a mismatch if two friends are polar opposites.

2) The closer two friends feel about one another, the more likely they are apt to share information and intimacies. In cases when one friend feels closer than the other, again this may be the basis for a mismatch.

3) Some people simply ask far too many questions, almost taking on the role of prosecuting attorneys. In their quest to elicit information, they are insensitive as to whether or note the other person is comfortable providing it.

It’s hard to know what’s going on in your situation. It seems like you can’t really lump all your friends together because the reasons people ask probing questions are different. If it’s one particular person who’s asking you too many questions, you may want to consider some of the explanations above.

However, if you’re running into the same recurring problem with multiple friends, give some thought to the types of questions being asked by your friends. Could it be possible that you are being too elusive when other people are just showing interest in you and your life? Can you be more open with some of them? If there is a secret you need to keep from some, you might simply tell them you would rather not say.

Bear in mind though that being too private can create barriers to closeness between friends.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Category: Communication, KEEPING FRIENDS

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  1. K. Martin Gardner says:

    I find that people ask “loaded” questions many times, in an attempt to corner you somehow. I can’t count how many times I feel like I am having a refreshing “get to know you” conversation with someone new, when suddenly they throw a final question on me that seems designed to shut me up, like a chess move. There seems to be a popular set of these questions in the collective unconscious these days.

    For example, if you have written a book: Ooh, do you have a publisher? Translation: You’re not a real author are you. Or, I am a private investigator. Ooh, are you licensed? Translation: You’re just some weirdo who likes to pretend he’s batman in his spare time.

    On and on it goes. I’ve just started telling people the most outlandish stories until they realize that I am feeding them BS. They THEY clam up, because they know I am onto them. The result will be the same, either way, truthful or pathological liar, awesome person, or deluded psychopath… the truth is, people just don’t effing care anymore!

    • lottie says:

      So true,people think they can ask anything. Only today I have thought about telling some huge obvious porkies which will let them know I know what they are at.You are so right. Lottie

  2. nicola jepp says:

    Bored people with boring lives want information to gain possible future friends or to give their gossip friends info in a bid to remain in that gossip group.Basically these types of people who want to gossip have small minds and people with bigger minds want to share and discuss their ideas.So your friend should have been asking when you both could meet up and do something fun or new or interesting not who you are spending your remaining time with as its none of her god damn business. Dont be afraid to say i am busy have to run people to meet things to do !!!!

    • SusanB says:

      Absolutely right. I have a very nosy “friend” who just loves her gossip! I have been trying to figure out just what makes her tick. She thrives on gossip. Just loves it! I scratch my head. It is really quite sad and I’ve been distancing myself from her because if she gossips about everyone else, she is definitely gossiping about me. She is bored with her own life, jealous of other people and uses gossip to make herself feel bigger and more important. Yeech, what a turn off. I am soooo done with people like this.

      • Betty says:

        I’m going throug the same thing with someone that I’ve been distancing myself from…. texts me to tell me that she saw me from her car, walking into the local grocery store, and what day it was…. I turned her onto my hair salon and she asked me what I pay to get my hair done… I told her that I get different services and it’s really not her business. She began asking me the other day about a guy that I’m friends with and if we’ve ever been intimate. Questioned me about another two friends that are brother and sister, who are very close… asked me if they had a weird relationship! I’m like WTF is with you????? I’ve blocked her from texting and phone calls and am slamming that door shut…

  3. Jeff B says:

    I cannot hold a job for very long due to the incessant invasive questions from co-workers. The break room is a death sentence for my job security because people tell me how to spend my money (‘you need to buy a car’; ‘you need to move to a closer-to-work/cheaper neighborhood’; ‘YOU NEED TO . . . ‘) Especially people from other cultures. They’re very paranoid that I’ll use my money to humiliate them, and being secretive just makes them even MORE inquisitive! Yeah, I’d like to spend MY money on what *I* want: Security, comfort, entertainment, privacy, peace-and-quiet, etc. If I look TOO happy, contented, or comfortable, I get verbally ATTACKED. People smell money by your clothes, haircut, car, diet, circle of friends, lack of concern on your face. Je-sus!

    • Ariane says:

      OMG Jeff, I totally agree with you. I am now a housewife after retiring at an early age and the reactions I get from people when they find out how young I am and don’t work anymore. They always ask “So, what do you do all day?” My reply…”What the hell I want.” I am SO glad I don’t work anymore because of all the gossip and drama in the workplace. If you are TOO happy and/or TOO quiet people at work tend to attack you with the most intrusive questions. I don’t feel the need to answer to people who could care less about me and are more concerned with spreading gossip. People can be so clueless, vicious and unkind.

  4. SINADINSE.A.P says:

    I’m positive that when it comes to friendship that’s a sure way to lessen your friendship and at some point it may fall apart. Especially, when the other person feels that he confides on you and share deepest secrets. If you don’t share under does circumstances your friends won’t last to longer. It’s a matter of trust. I have a friend we met upon internet. Next we shared our phone numbers. From the get go we have established our lines. Than she started talking about her life, family, and how her relationship between her boyfriend was going acrimony. I gave her some advice out to handle and fight for what she loved. Later on, we commenced on having feelings for each other. At some point we crossed the boundaries we had set. We’d ask both of us any single question that appears in mind at that moment. But, one day out of the blue, I asked the fallowing question,” You seem to me that you are a brave person. What secret talent do you possess?”. As a response, she turned of her apps in order to avoid communication. She dodged for a week. Later on, she came with bunch of silly excuses and nasty. So, I felt betrayed. Anyway, you have to be sure what the purpose of making friends mean to you. You are a meaningful person to somebody, don’t be selfish let him feel the same way. If you want to shield from rude question stick with your limits right of the bat. Bear in mind not to cross the line. You may be the first person to cross it and later feel bad because your friend did the same. Keep in mind that we get accustomed to friends every day we talk we share something new. To elude from giving a rude response to a close friend, you better act wisely in order not to lose you friendship. Read the rude question twice. Step away from the question, listen to something funny, watch comedy. The main goal is to make you laugh. You might come up with a second thought. Lastly, think twice before responding and put your self in her/his shoes.

  5. Janet says:

    If they are asking too many questions; especially “how to or what to do questions”, after the first few, I would tell him you charge a consulting fee. Most people, if they are true friends wouldn’t be so invasive.

  6. Islandgirl says:

    If I were to ask a friend who they were doing something with, depending on what it was, like if it was going to be something in a public place, I’d be asking because I wanted to be invited along.

    If it’s possible that this is the situation you’re dealing with, is there a reason you wouldn’t want this person to come along with you and your other friend(s)? Maybe the answer to that question will help you evaluate what sort of relationship you want with her.

    At any rate, it sounds like you are needing stronger boundaries with this person. Sometimes when I have issues like this, I reread the book Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend and the answer to my dilemma comes to me. I may have to do some journaling about it as well, to help me sort out my feelings about it.

    Sometimes I’m surprised to come to the realization that I really don’t want this person in my life anymore, and I hadn’t wanted to admit that to myself, because rejecting people can be hard.

    Sometimes I have to remind myself that contact with others is a privilege, not a right. And that works both ways.

  7. Chris says:

    I think that if I asked one of my friends what they were doing over the weekend and they replied they were doing such-and-such with ‘a friend,’ I would not ask who the friend is as I would assume that, if they wanted me to know, they would have said the person’s name, such as ‘I’m going to the cinema with Jane’ rather than ‘I’m going to the cinema with a friend.’ I am quite a private person and so I respect others who wish to keep certain things to themselves. While friendship is about sharing, at the same time everyone has the right to choose what to share.

  8. Sandra says:

    I may have a different perspective to this — could this friend be a little jealous that you are spending time with others then with her – or perhaps more time with your other friends then with her.
    I’ll will be honest with you… I have a friend who I have know for over 20 years and she is constantly complaining that she doesn’t have time for anything and that we should get together and so forth. We talk on the phone every couple of days and when she is talking about what she did on the weekend, I find myself asking (or sometimes just wondering) who she was with, because my feelings do get hurt when she finds the time to spend with other people, but not with me.
    I have come to terms with this relationship that it is a ‘phone’ relationship and nothing more. I know that sounds crazy, however that’s just another issue that I have to deal with in my little world.

    • lottie says:

      Hi Sandra,
      I have just read your message and if you don’t mind me saying It is not crazy I know exactly what you mean. It is as if they are so busy busy and IMPORTANT and in demand by everybody. I see it as a sort of bragging and boasting. Then she rings you and can just about have time to chat before she is busy again and so out of breath and her life is hectic. I am even wondering if we share the same friend.
      What I do now is not answer or let my friend ring but not be available, only when it fits in with me. Do you feel as if you are on phone patrol waiting to hear the next instalment or figment of her imagination, I did. But not any more. PS Your world is as big as you want it to be. I stopped listening about her grand children. To make you laugh, one day I put the phone on loud speaker and carried on with my work just saying hmmm and ohhhh. She was non the wiser. I thought why does she think I want to listen to every detail of her two years old grandchild. Your time is more important to you. Sorry to rant on. Lottie x

  9. Alberta says:

    How do I respond without being rude? You don’t worry about being rude. Asking invasive questions is rude to begin with. Rude people often take advantage of those who have trouble with boundaries. This is another thing to consider. If you find people engaging in this invasive behaviour towards you, do you have trouble setting boundaries? Often people pleasers, those who fear being ‘rude’ to rude people, have trouble with boundaries. A creative way to deal with is to make it all about your pet – dog, cat then you learn to ‘catch’ yourself from answering invasive questions. “What did you do this weekend” I spent it grooming fluffy. “Who were you with all weekend” Fluffy. What kind of activities did you do? Chillaxin. Or have an odd answer that stops them in their tracks – I had a friend who was constantly asked if he is gay? His response “only in my left ear”
    so you could take this tac as well – it stopped those personal questions for sure and made people laugh.

  10. Kalee says:

    I, too, currently have a friend who asks too many questions; although I initially didn’t perceive her enquiries as a problem. When we met, I interpreted her questions as a sign of interest in me, and I answered them openly. Now, fourteen years later, she is still asking the same questions. And, many of her questions lead me to believe she either doesn’t/didn’t listen, believe, or understand my answers. Regardless, my honest replies to her many questions don’t seem to have enhanced her understanding of who I am, my challenges, values, attitudes, beliefs, etc. This puts the relationship in a whole different perspective.

    Another disturbing part of the dynamic is that she seems to have lost the discretion she previously displayed. During the past few months, I’ve heard about her friends’ health and weight problems, financial situations, family dynamics, face lifts, substance abuse problems, etc. I’m now wondering if the questions she asks are a way to obtain “social currency” in the form of details of others’ lives — another reason to “clam up”. After all, if she “blabs” about others’ lives, she’s blabbing about me as well.

    I expect little would be gained by confronting this friend about her nosey and indiscreet behaviour. Our personal styles are completely different, and probably ultimately incompatible. Instead, I’m gradually “cooling” things off — behaving more as an acquaintance than a true friend, which is likely closer to the truth anyways. But, it does hurt to realize the time and effort I’ve invested in the relationship was probably not warranted.

    • Michelle says:

      Dear Kalee

      I hope you see this reply. I was searching on the web for something to guide me (or make me feel that I wasn’t imagining what I felt to be true). I have a friend exactly the same, and I am also in the process of cooling it off. I believe that she elicits ‘news’ for social currency. And like you with your friend, she is always telling me news of others – things that I am sure those people may not want spread about. I came to the same realisation that she was probably doing the same to me.

      But what you wrote in your first paragraph mirrors my situation exactly. I thought she was just interested in me, but 10 years later, she has no idea who I am. I have a particular health issue that I have been up and down with over the years, and she asks me about it constantly – not in a concerned way, like ‘is your new treatment working better’, but as if she never knew about it and I have to tell her about the whole thing, from the beginning. It is extremely tiring. I have finally, after all this time, realised that she lacks depth and her conversations are stunted. If I try and discuss world events, travel, books, gardening – she has no idea and gets really bored. Then it is back to the gossiping about others. So, pulling away is the best thing. Although part of me feels I want to write to her to let her know the reason I am ending it. Not sure though, as I might be doing that for all the wrong reasons (i.e. purely for me, which is not the right reason)

  11. Eliza says:

    I don’t care how addicted some are to social media…if you choose to be private – that’s your perogative…and as a true friend, one should expect that level of courtesy to be met. I find that the more intrusive someone get–the “evasive” I get. Some people have zero boundaries…and they need to be reminded of that.

  12. lottie says:

    Thank you for your reply.
    It was only rereading what I had written that I realised what I had missed. Thank you for the gentle kind nudge. Lottie x

  13. Jen says:

    Actually she says that she tells them what she’ll be doing, but the questioners want to know *who* she is doing the activity with.

    Once again I guess close friends might just be interested in her life, but they may find their own feelings hurt if they persist and hear answers telling them that she is invited to many activities with people they also know – activities to which they were not invited. 🙂

    • lottie says:

      Hi Jen
      Yes you are right. I missed off the “who” in my reply. It should have read as “And what are you doing and who with” ?
      Of course Linda could always laugh it off by not saying who she is doing whatever with and add some famous celebrity (the Beckhams)and next week Bill Clinton has asked me over for nibbles!!! and just start laughing.Make a joke about it. Lottie x

      • Jen says:

        Lottie I think that is a great idea! It simultaneously deflects from an answer she may not want to give and gently gives the questioner the message that the boundary has been reached. Only someone with overwhelming curiosity and little sensitivity would grill her further.

  14. lottie says:

    I know exactly what you mean it has happened to me recently and in the past.
    It really irritates me. It seems like they think themselves superior and it is their right to know. I wouldn’t dream of being so nosey. What I do if asked what I am doing is immediately say “And what will you be doing”? It does stop them if you ask back before you give an answer. Or act as if you didn’t hear the question and change the subject. If you are in a coffee shop or similar excuse yourself and go to the ladies room. Hope this is of help. Lottie

  15. Amy F says:

    I’m just wondering why you’re friends with someone who you aren’t comfortable telling what you’re doing on the weekend?
    If you were my friend and you weren’t open, I probably would distance myself because I don’t want a certain intimacy and openness with my friends and I don’t want to be close with someone who is a lot of work.

    • Laura says:

      I totally agree with you, Amy. If I ask a friend a simple question like what ttey’re doing on the weekend and they don’t really want to say it makes me wonder if we’re really friends. IMO, it’s just small talk that even coworkers routinely share Mondays.

    • hanna says:

      I think it really depends on the context. For most of my friends, that question is just small talk. However, I have a few friends (and relatives) who ask those kinds of questions as a precursor to inviting themselves along. “Oh, who are you doing that with? Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun, I’d love to do that too. What time are you leaving? Can I have a ride?”

      • Lisa says:

        Yes!! I have a friend like this. I did not used to mind the questions, but now I know it leads to her trying to invite herself along, even to an intimate evening with my fiance that I only see on the weekends due to work. It has become so I dread when she asks me these questions. And she forces hers and her son’s preferences on me and my son, including on his birthday. “We don’t like that restaurant. Tell your son to make a second choice.” What?? I have a terrible time saying no, but I have two friends, and one is my soul friend and we have a very different relationship. The two share nothing in common, but that doesn’t stop bossy friend from pointing out I’ve seen the other friend twice already this week (I’m sorry, am I on a ration system?) or trying to invite herself along with us, only to become very bitchy if I tell her no. No, it is definitely not random that I dread those questions from this particular person.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    I can understand how you feel about the need for some privacy when it comes to your social life. Privacy is a rare thing these days — given that everyone is posting Facebook photos and Tweets of what they are eating for dinner and where they partying … and with whom.

    Because social media makes everyone an open book, many of us now expect that our friends’ business is OUR business. It’s really hard to know what healthy boundaries are these days!

    That said, I agree with Irene when she said that too much secrecy can create barriers in friendship. When my son was in school, I became friends with a mom at the school who had a child the same age. She wanted to hang out with me — but she was very secretive about her private life. Of course, she wanted to know MY business but would clam up when I tried to initiate deeper conversations with her. Needless to say, that one-sided friendship started to feel very odd, and we drifted apart.

    While you have a right to your privacy, friendship is about “sharing” and there needs to be a balance.

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