It's Okay To Be Personal
Everyone does not have a right to your personal information; this is something I have learned and I have to remind myself of every day. "It's some nosy people round here"....that's a quote from a play that I really enjoyed, and even though that scene was comedic relief, the statement is undoubtedly true. There are some people who are just out and out nosy, they have their nose in any and everybody's business. I think it's part of this whole "being nice" thing, where we think to say no or to have a standard is to be mean.
Newsflash: that's a lie.
You are your own person; you don't have to tell everybody everything, and that is not mean. I remember when I was younger and I didn't have to hesitate to tell people to "mind your beeswax"; now, I feel like saying a simple "I don't feel comfortable having this conversation" is taken as being mean or rude. People have entitlement issues, they don't have to know everything about you; in reality they shouldn't.
Where are you? In my skin.
Who are you with? A person.
Why are you there? Because I want to be.
Where are you going? Wherever I end up.
What are you doing? Minding my business.
Remember when we were younger and people told us we were too young to have business? Well now, as twenty-somethings, the same does not ring true. There are some things that are just not public information, everything is not for everyone to know.
I wish people would learn to stop asking personal questions all the time, and stop taking offense when people decide not to answer. However, since that is not likely to happen very soon, we should learn how to effectively swerve people.
For me, being succinct is a daily struggle. I am verbose if you will, and around people I trust I don't really feel reservation; the problem is that I am very trusting. I was always taught to give people the benefit of the doubt; I never question people's motives. That teaching did not help me when I got to college though; I ran into some very ill-willed people and not knowing how to swerve their nosy questions got me in a world of trouble.
Nowadays, the minute I get around people who I know to be nosy (or newsy as I grew up saying), I have to check myself and adjust to my new surroundings. Learning to be strong and not break and give people your personal information is not an easy thing; it takes practice and willpower. Here are a few tips:
1. Acknowledge that everybody is not your friend.
We throw the word friend around very loosely nowadays; every one of our acquaintances or associates becomes our "friend" when we need to introduce them. No one wants to be told that they are your associate or acquaintance, and you don't have to tell them, but in your head and heart be cognizant of their true place in your life. Talking to someone whenever you see them does not make them your friend. Being part of the same organization as someone does not make them your friend. Having a mutual friend with someone does not make them your friend. The reason we have to acknowledge who is and who isn't our friend is because friends have certain entitlement that everyone else does not have.
2. Create a standard.
You may be a very open person, or maybe you don't share anything. What is your standard? The standard could be strictly business; if I wouldn't tell my boss I'm not telling you. Or maybe it's social media; if I wouldn't tweet this i'm not telling you. Or maybe it's best friends; if i wouldn't tell my best friends i'm not telling you. Or maybe you have no standard, and there is nothing that separates what you would tell your boss from what you would tell your best friends; be careful.
3. Act in love.
When we were seven; telling someone "mind your beeswax" was acceptable; today it is not. Find a nice and kind way to tell someone you don't feel comfortable answering their questions. "I'd prefer not to answer that", "That's a really personal question", "I don't feel comfortable sharing". You don't have to make it about the other person and say things like "Why are you all in my business?" "You are so nosy", "What's it to you?" or my all time favorite snide remark, "Why? You writing a book?". These responses are very offensive for the most part, so try to save them for special circumstances (not at all, depending on who the audience is).
4. Be prepared!
Be ready to catch these nosy people and stop them in their tracks! Listen for the trigger questions, the ones that can turn a cordial greeting into a heart to heart. Listen up for questions that sound like prying; try to shift the conversation away from you if need be. Also, if you are not good under pressure (i'm not, I ALWAYS crack) prepare a response for when you find yourself in the situation. Here are some of my automatic responses:
How are you? I'm good how are you?
What are you doing tonight/later/tomorrow? I don't know yet, why what's up?
I usually give a generic response and then ask a question, shifting the attention away from me.
Another thing; these people who are fishing will not always ask a question; sometimes it will be in the form of an open ended statement. People will say things like "I haven't seen you in a while", or "You weren't at _____ the other day", or "I asked (insert close friend's name) about you" ; these people are expecting you to explain to them why they haven't seen you in awhile, or why you weren't at ____ the other day, or how you're doing. Just respond with the obvious. "Yeah i couldn't make it" or "Yeah thanks for the concern", they might take the hint at this point. If not, and they continue in their quest for information, use some of the aforementioned kind responses.
I have practiced being "stealthy" (as i like to call it), with my best friend. She doesn't really like it but it is a low-risk way for me to hone the skills I need to use on the "big dogs". Imagine how often you talk to your best friend and how many personal questions you ask each-other; swerve ten percent of those questions and it will become a lot easier. Also, practice this in your text messages; it is very easy to avoid uncomfortable questions via text, but be intentional about it. Respond with, "that's really personal" or an answer that isn't offering any information, such as "in my skin".
These are just a few tips that have helped me in this journey to not have everyone and their mother knowing about my life; it is not an exhaustive list by any means. Our generation shares everything and it has gotten to the point where it is normal to know very personal details about everyone you know. It is normal but that does not mean it is necessary or appropriate; you determine whether it is necessary or appropriate for yourself. If it makes you uncomfortable, it is okay not to share. Be intentional about every interaction and don't allow peer pressure or the desire to stay on everyone's good side cause you to reveal things that you don't want to. You can do it.
Grace and Peace,