As you get older and more mature, you learn to better navigate relationships and how to communicate others. But sometimes, it feels like there are certain conversations that no one seems to understand are just plain annoying. There are a number of questions that every person hates to be asked, yet somehow, people just keep on asking them. To avoid being that person, you'll want to educate yourself on the annoying topics — or ways of phrasing things — that no one wants to discuss.
"Asking the right kind of questions during a conversation is powerful on many levels," says psychotherapist Todd Puckett over email. "It can provide someone who’s a bit uncomfortable or nervous an easy entrée. It can also provide useful cues for what your partner should talk about to hold your interest, and it can cause people to feel more related and even intimate."
Puckett notes that where you’re coming from when you ask questions makes all the difference. "Are you showing real interest in the other person? Or is your question coming from thinly veiled hostility or derision?" he says.
Keeping that in mind can help you decipher whether a question is intrusive or inquisitive. In the meantime, try to avoid these 11 questions that almost everyone hates being asked.
1"Why Aren't You Dating Anyone?"
This question is frustrating because it makes it seem as if you should have control over all aspects of dating. What if I don't like anyone? What if they don't like me? "This is a question that can be interpreted as a forceful or invasive and could easily be coming from family, friends, and co-workers on a regular basis," says Puckett. "Stop it!"
2"How Many Sexual Partners Have You Had?"
How many people someone has slept with is really none of your business. "The reason this question is annoying is pretty clear, but some people can’t resist asking anyway," says Puckett. "You never need to know it, you never will, and you should never ask it again."
3"How's The Job Search Going?"
"Chances are if discussions about the new job have not already surfaced in your conversation, the person is still searching and is probably stressed and embarrassed about it," says Puckett. Something as simple as “What’s going on?” is more open-ended and can likely stimulate an answer to your question just as quickly, without feeling intrusive.
4"Why Are You So Dressed Up?"
This is a passive-aggressive way of calling out someone for putting effort into their appearance. "Maybe the person felt great about themselves throughout that day until you just slammed their self-confidence with a question that could likely be interpreted as saying they overdressed for the setting or that their attire doesn’t look good," says Puckett.
5"How Are You?"
It's polite, but it's a really meaningless question. "This gets on the list because people usually just ask this out of habit and don't actually want to hear an honest or lengthy answer," says Crystal I. Lee, Psy.D. over email. "Try not to ask this question unless you actually want to hear an answer and are invested in having an actual conversation with the person."
6"What Ethnicity Are You?"
"In almost any instance, this question comes off as offensive," says Lee. "By asking about someone's race or ethnicity in this manner, you are putting them into an 'other' category. You might just be curious, but you're implying that they don't really belong or that you're reducing their identity to one thing (their race/ethnicity)."
7"When Are You Getting Married?"
Sure, you might be curious when your next wedding invitation is coming, but proceed with caution. "This is a highly personal question, and you're really putting people on the spot when you ask them," says Lee. "You don't know if the couple has discussed wanting to get married, and you might be triggering an argument. You also don't know if these people even want to get married (to each other or at all), and it's frustrating for those who never want to marry to constantly have to explain this to people."
8"When Are You Having Kids?"
This is another highly personal question that you're not entitled the answer to. "You don't know this person's situation regarding their relationship or fertility," says Lee. "If this person is struggling to have kids or had a miscarriage, you may be triggering some extreme sadness. If the person has no intention of ever having kids, it's annoying having to explain this to people."
9"Are You Sure You Want To Eat That?"
Even if you have someone's health in mind, it's not your place to provide commentary on what they put into their body. "For anyone who has issues with food or weight, this is a highly triggering comment," says Lee. "It's also a very judgmental comment. You may be trying to be helpful, but you're really just making the other person feel uncomfortable."
10"Why Do You Look So Tired?"
Telling someone they look tired is never, ever going to be a good thing. "This implies that you look bad or old," says psychotherapist Jessica R. Dell, LCSW over email. "We might already know it, so we don't need someone else to reinforce it."
11"How Do I Look In This?"
This question is tricky and depends on who is asking you, but it can often put people in a very uncomfortable position where no answer is the right one. "When someone asks this, they usually are looking for only one answer: ‘You look great," says coach Barbara Cox, PhD over email. "They really do not want commentary on what is unflattering for them in terms of certain colors or styles — they just want confirmation of what they like themselves."