How to Politely Tell Someone “It’s None of Your Business”
With our lives becoming more and more public these days thanks to the rise of social media, sometimes it seems that it’s almost a requirement to be 100 percent open with other people—even when they are mere acquaintances. The truth is, however, that how much privacy you enjoy is completely up to you, and you should never feel pressured to share personal details about your life that you are not ready to share with others.
Here are some tips for how you can politely tell prying ears “it’s none of your business.”
Understand that you are under no obligation.
First, the important thing to remember is that you are under no obligation to impart details about your life that you are not ready to share. In fact, it is perfectly normal to keep some pieces of information restricted to family members or close friends only, and it might even be in your best interest. As this article explains, for example, discussing a past substance addiction with people such as your employer, acquaintances, and extended family could actually create more problems than it solves, depending on the situation. When deciding whether or not to share personal information with someone, consider first whether doing so would be beneficial to you or if it would only create unnecessary trouble.
Understand that most people are well-meaning.
It’s also important to remember that most people do not mean to make you feel uncomfortable when asking personal questions, and most people do not ask these questions simply for the sake of being nosy. People are typically well-meaning when asking you questions about your life, and often it is because they lack certain knowledge that they do not realize that the question they have asked is stepping over the line. The question “When are you two going to have kids?” might seem friendly enough, for example, but for a couple who is battling infertility, this may not be a welcome question. So, when in doubt, it’s best not to take it to heart when you are asked a question that you feel is over the line.
Use different wording.
Saying “it’s none of your business” is considered somewhat abrasive (even if what the person asked was far too personal), but there are other ways that you can phrase that same sentiment. Here are some examples:
- Thank you for asking, but I would rather not say.
- I appreciate your concern, but can we talk about something else?
- Oh, you know, it’s kind of personal.
Of course, there are occasions when a person might become persistent. At this point, it may be best to be blunt, saying firmly, “It really is none of your business.”
Say it with a smile.
A simple smile can go a long way in dispelling any potentially negative feelings in the conversation. If asked how much money you make, for example, you can simply smile and say, “Oh, you know, that’s kind of personal. I don’t like talking salary.” Your smile will communicate that while you may not have liked the question, you are still willing to continue in conversation.
Change the subject.
You can change the subject without seeming deceptive. You might say something like “Oh, we don’t need to talk about that right now,” and then follow up by asking the person a question that they would like to answer. Or simply ask the person if you can talk about something else.
You can be honest while sharing only part of the story.
Sometimes people associate sharing only part of the story with dishonesty, as if you have to be completely open with other people in order to achieve “perfect honesty.” Keep in mind, however, that you can still remain perfectly honest with people while withholding some details about your personal life. Let’s say, for example, that you had a recent, not-so-good visit to the doctor, and a friend wants to know how the visit went. If you’re not ready to share the details of this visit with your friend, be honest about that and then explain that you are sharing only what you feel prepared to share. You might say something like, “You know, my doctor told me some things that I’m not ready to share with others quite yet, but I will let you know when I’m ready to talk about it.”