How to Deal with Questions from Nosy People (Confidential Information)

The need to keep information confidential can be rooted in many reasons.

There may be information which is dangerous for you to expose, or things which you’re embarrassed to be associated with. You may be acting to protect someone else’s safety and interests, or maybe, just need to wait until the perfect time to unveil certain pieces of information as a surprise. Whatever your reason for keeping secrets may be, keeping information confidential is a skill that can be honed.

How would you react should someone discover information you’re attempting to keep under wraps? How about if someone begins digging a little too deeply into your personal subjects? We seldom prepare for the moments which test our ability to keep information confidential. These moments should be prepared and trained for. They need to be visualized, and you should be confident in your ability to withstand the pressures others place on you to reveal information you’ve promised not to.


For Every Action to Hide, Will Be a Reaction to Discover

Your act of keeping information confidential should be implicit. A major key to your information remaining private, is not allowing the ones around you to know that this private information exists. For example, it is more difficult to keep our age private than it is to keep knowledge of the box of jewelry you have hidden in the attic under wraps. The fact of your existence tells others that there must be an age associated with it.

You thereby can’t deny the existence of your age if someone asks you how old you are, but can only refuse to tell them the number. Keeping the existence of information hidden is better than refusing to voice specifics if the existence is already known. If you tell people a box of jewelry exists somewhere in the house, they’ll be more likely to find it, even if the location is not disclosed.

The first, and perhaps most important, principle in keeping information confidential is to control the knowledge of its existence the best you can. Your aim for confidential information should be for others to not even know that it exists. If existence is discovered, then you’ll be forced into an act of hiding information, rather than controlling its existence.

The act of refusing to tell others your age will induce a natural reaction in others to pry and dig for it. They’ll look out for you forgetting your wallet and be enticed to study your driver’s license. They’ll keep an ear out for any discussions about your age; perhaps the year you graduated high school, or when you had your first drink. For every action taken in attempt to hide information, people around you will have a reaction to try and discover it.


You Will Always Win the Game of Generalities (Discomfort on the Interviewer’s Part)

The desire to be hospitable with your information is difficult to curb.

The awkwardness of being general in the face of someone asking you a direct, but sensitive, question is difficult to simply exist through. You’ll feel a potent desire to open your mouth and make sounds with your larynx. You’ll have trouble keeping direct eye contact during the silent moments after you divert from answering sensitive questions by using overly general answers.

Remember though: you will always win the game of generalities.

As the recipient of questions which pry a little too far into your personal business, you reserve the right to be general with your answers. Don’t feel bad about it, but don’t be rude about it either. The option of you answering sensitive questions in an overly general way is always there for you to employ.

When your back is against the wall, stick to being as general as possible for as long as possible. The ball will always end up in your interviewer’s court for them to decide what to do. If they continue inquiring in an inappropriate manner, then your act of putting up a wall of generalities is always an option.

An example of remaining general with your answers can look like the following:

Question: “How much do you make per month?”

Your general answer: “Honestly, not enough for me to allow for nice things. Just enough to simply survive.”

Followup question: “But like, how much exactly?”

Your answer to the followup: “Trust me, not as much as you think. It’s not even worth discussing.”

Since you’re not in a hostage situation, remember that the people asking you sensitive questions will never be able to force the details out of you. The only way they’ll do so will be through the pressure that awkward moments give rise to.

The weapon of choice that nosy individuals employ, is the one of giving birth to an awkward situation, and surviving in that situation longer than you. You are thereby forced to answer their personal questions, while they simply exist through, and expect, the awkwardness that they give rise to. It’s a rather devious habit on their part.

Your only option when your back is against the wall thereby, is to simply exist through the awkwardness longer than them. Be general, and stick to being general until they move on with their inquiries onto more appropriate topics. You owe these people nothing, thereby rid yourself of all pressures to answer their nosy questions.


A Secret Discovered, Is Now Meaningless to You

If the information you’re attempting to keep private becomes disclosed, try your best to devalue its importance in your eyes, and the eyes of others. Confidential information discovered by someone you don’t approve of is to be considered public information. It should lose its importance in your eyes, and you need to quickly swallow the pill of the world knowing about the information you worked so hard to keep a secret.

Do not be surprised in the face of someone discovering the things you attempted to keep a secret, and do not give them any credit for discovering it, whether it be a positive or a negative reaction. You now live in a world which knows the secret someone was successful in discovering. Your choices now, are to either live with the secret being public, or to adapt the information discovered and propel it into confidentiality once more.

If your box of jewelry is discovered by someone you do not trust, it is in your best interest to move it to a new place. Some secrets can be modified to maintain their confidentiality such as the location of the jewelry box, while some cannot. If something like your age, which you’ve attempted to keep a secret, is discovered, your only option is to live in a world in which that information is public. Now, you are in a phase of damage control, not concealment. The optimal thing to do with information of which the status is now public, is to devalue it. Keeping your age confidential after someone discovers how old you are is senseless.

Showing sensitivity around a topic someone dug up will encourage their attention to stick around to survey and plan.

The quicker you release the grasp that its importance has on your thinking, the easier it will be to control the damage which its use may cause. If others see that the information they’ve discovered means something to you, they’ll be more likely to use it against you. The secrets which are discovered should become meaningless to you. They are secrets no longer, a fact which should be genuinely accepted at once upon their discovery.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.