When you want to start building relationships, you have to interact with people, ask questions and answer some. We have to work on our executive presence and one of my previous article gave a few tips on this subject. However, we (especially women) all have been asked inappropriate questions at some point in our lives. Whether it was in an interview or at a networking event, sometimes people can be very direct – if not rude – and ask questions that make us feel uncomfortable to say the least. 

How do you respond to these inappropriate questions? What can you do?


Always remain polite

Sometimes, some people coming from certain countries can be more direct than others. They don’t mean to be rude but they can come across as such. However, some other times, some people just want to know certain things and will not beat about the bush. They will ask their questions straight, not really caring if they are going to hurt your feelings or not. 

Whatever the situation, always remain polite and calm as much as possible. You never know what the future holds. You may come across that person at a later stage. This person may be key in getting you hired or giving you a project, an assignment, etc. 

Keep in mind that this might also be a way to test your reaction and whether you are able to handle uncomfortable situations.


Ask clarifying questions

If someone asks you inappropriate questions (such as ‘How old are you?’ or ‘Are you married?’ or ‘Do you want children?’), ask the person why they need this information now or why this is relevant. If you are in an interview and it’s your first interview, you may say that you’d rather not answer this question now, but you’d be happy to provide all the information if you get hired. That way, people will know you are not trying to hide something but that you are just trying to keep certain parts of your life confidential, till you need to get things official in a contract. 

Remember that people don’t always have bad intentions. In an interview, they may ask your age as they may get some subsidies if they hire persons of a certain age (either people from younger generations – less than 25 – or older generations about 50 or 60). Or they may want to know if you want or have children as they may provide help with day care or pay for some of your children’s education.


If it is really inappropriate

If you are asked a very inappropriate question, that has nothing to do with the topic you’re discussing or the job you are applying to, and/or if it is not the first time your counterpart has asked you some questions that are ‘on the edge’, don’t hesitate to call that person out and say something like “I don’t think this is appropriate.” By doing so, the person will realize you are serious,that you are there to talk business and nothing else. 


What other tips would you have to answer inappropriate questions? I’d love to hear your feedback.  


#vlvcoach #womeninbusiness #professionalwomen #womenleadership #leadership


This article was also published on Linkedin.


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