The crucial nosy people etiquette rules. The appropriate ways to politely answer inquisitive questions and deal with nosy people.

What nosy people etiquette is

Nosy people etiquette is the set of rules to properly deal with inquisitive people and answer prying questions. Such rules include:

  • How to answer nosy questions.
  • The best ways to deflect nosy questions.
  • The mistakes to avoid with nosy people.

Follow nosy people etiquette to politely answer inquisitive questions, avoid or deflect nosy questions, and steer the conversation away from too-personal topics.

General nosy people etiquette principles

Nosy people etiquette is based on two main principles.

  • Protect our personal soace and boundaries.
  • Avoid offending others.
rules for how to answer nosy and prying questions

Nosy people etiquette rules

1) Identify the issue and give feedback

Some people may be inquisitive or nosy because of their personality or because no one has given them feedback.

If you meet a nosy person casually or for the first time, it may be best to overlook the issue and move on. Instead, when the nosy person is someone you need to deal with on a continuative basis, such as a coworker or a relative, it may be worth making the effort of giving feedback.

Keep the feedback quick and light. Do not make a big deal of it and do not venture into a full analysis of the issue. Use humor or simply smile and make a light observation. “This is a rather personal topic” or “In my family, our parents told us never to discuss such topics.” A considerate person will understand the feedback and appreciate it.

2) Refuse to answer a nosy question

If the feedback does not work, it is perfect etiquette to deflect nosy questions and protect your personal boundaries. We do not owe an answer to inquisitive questions. You can give a vague explanation and stick to it. “It is a personal matter”.

3) Know what information you are not prepared to share

Know your boundaries. A nosy question will not catch you off-guard if you know where the limit is and are willing to protect it. Know in advance which information you are not willing to share. Such as family, love life, sexual preferences, or money. When someone ventures in that direction, be clear that you do not intend to discuss such topics at this time.

4) Avoid mean answers and lies

Do not be offended by a nosy question. Different people may perceive personal boundaries differently. Thus, a question that is perfectly normal to someone may feel nosy or rude to someone else.

Avoid rude or mean answers and keep a neutral tone of voice. Never answer with a lie.

5) Do not turn the question around

Do not turn a nosy question around. The other person may not perceive the question as nosy or the topic as too personal. They might answer the question and then await your turn to answer it. The nosy question will stand, but now you will feel compelled to reciprocate and share your answer too.

Thus, if a topic is too nosy for you, simply steer the conversation away from it.

6) Deflect the nosy question

Alternatively, you can deflect a nosy question. There are many perfectly appropriate ways to do so.

Nosy question: “How much did you pay for your house?”

  • Humor. “Unfortunately, renewing the house cost way more than buying it.”
  • Join them in the question. “With all the expenses to renew the house and moving in, I wonder it myself.”
  • Turn the nosy question into a different question. “I was undecided between buying a house or renting it. Do you know the average rent in the area?”
  • Pass the buck. “You should ask our decorator. I am sure she knows her invoices better than I do.”
  • Pretend you don’t understand. “It has a small garden too. Shall we get another drink?”

7) Give a direct answer

It is perfect etiquette to respond to a nosy question with a direct answer.

Question: “Why did you take a day off tomorrow?”

Answer: “I have a personal engagement. I will be back the day after tomorrow.”

If the other person insists, you should stick to your answer. “It is a personal matter.” A considerate person will take the cue. If the other person insists, you keep sticking to your answer. “As I said, it is a personal matter.”

8) Make sure you do not post about it

Be careful about what you post on social networks. If you refuse to answer a nosy question, then make sure that the information is not easily available online.

How to deal with nosy people at work

At work, you are allowed to defend the boundaries between your personal and professional lives. Thus, it is perfectly appropriate to refuse to answer a personal question. If someone insists, consider involving your manager or human resources.

deal with nosy people etiquette worst mistakes

Nosy people etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst nosy people etiquette mistakes. 

  • 8/10. Getting offended because of a nosy question.
  • 8/10. Giving a mean answer.
  • 8/10. Lying.
  • 7/10. Posting on social networks information that you refuse to share in person. 
  • 5/10. Turning the nosy question around.


  • “What makes a question inquisitive?” A Study on Type-Controlled Inquisitive Question Generation: