You Never Asked for It

Are you often annoyed or inconvenienced by pointed and/or inappropriate questions?

Many would agree that the smartest, most successful individuals are among the most inquisitive and determined in their quest for answers. Nevertheless, needing and wanting to know are two separate conditions.

Furthermore, over recent years, as people have grown less concerned with certain rules of engagement that once guided conversations, they are less inhibited in what they feel entitled to ask and how they go about inquiring. While waiting for someone to present a dissertation on the erosion of politeness, you can immediately take command of unwanted interrogations. Simply respond with this question:

Why are you asking?

Besides exposing ulterior motives, if they exist, the counter challenges askers to reconsider their purpose and/or clarify their intent. (You can also ponder the motivations before asking your own questions.)

  • Is this any of your business? If so, why?
  • Is this something about which you are merely curious? Why do you care about it?
  • Is this a question for which you already know the answer? If so, why not state your point?
  • Is this your main question? If you are aiming to uncover something else, why not address your concern straightforwardly?
  • Is another party prompting or coercing you to ask and report back? If so, why are you in that position?

Whether the original question is justified or not, “Why are you asking?” is almost always a valid counter, especially if it’s delivered without sarcasm, defensiveness, or any negativity.

Notably, a defensive how-dare-you-ask-me-why-I’m-asking stance can make the questioner seem in the wrong, even if not. Consequently, if the tables turn, placing you in that position, strive to moderate your reaction to your poorly received question.

Ultimately, even if someone’s why is rational, practical, or ethical, the reasons for not divulging information can be more compelling. In those situations, brace yourself to speak conclusively:

I cannot give you an answer.

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

Thoughts or questions? Please contact Sallie Boyles, owner of Write Lady Inc., to exchange ideas about effective communications and gain from professional writing and editing services. Receive monthly tips and insights by subscribing at