what can you do about people's inane questions?
By Justin Siebenhaar
September 26, 2006 | There are a few questions I really
hate. I'm sure everybody's got these types of questions
in their lives that people ask, but have absolutely
no interest in what the answer will be. They're social
dues one must pay for the benefit of having contact
with people. In life you just can't pick and choose
every person you'll interact with.
The worst place for these questions is around family
and acquaintances. Many of these people are just folks
who are forced to take an interest in you. But instead
of taking an interest in you, they just ask the same
questions and then zone out for a few minutes while
The one I seem to get a lot lately is "So, you dating
any one?" That one really goes up my nose. I mean, what
business of theirs is it? Do I ask them how their sex
life with their spouse is? I guess the thing that really
bugs me the most about that question is the indifferent
response I get. If I say, "No, I'm not dating anyone,"
then they'll lecture me on the importance of dating
someone and say things like, "You gotta get on that!"
Another question that really gets to me is when people
ask what I'm doing with my life. It's not that I hate
the concern, it's that there's no concern at all behind
the question. I'm going to school. That's what people
my age usually do. They know that. It's what I was doing
the last time I talked to them. I go to school, I work
in a low-paying job and I do things with friends. That's
what I'm doing with my life.
But I think probably the worst question that can be
asked is, "So, how's life?" I mean seriously, what type
of a question is that? If these people really cared
they'd be keeping better tabs on me than to ask that
It also really bugs me when they ask questions while
running out the door. I don't think I can sum up life
by saying "Good" or "Bad." It's just pleasantries. And
if I did say "My life is a living hell, I think I'm
going to throw myself in front of a bus after this party,"
I'm pretty sure their response would still be, "Right
on, see ya around."
But I've realized there are a few protections against
these types of questions. First, the key is to spot
them when they're coming. Almost always these questions
start with a long, drawn out "Sooooo." The second key
is to keep them on their toes. You've got to give an
answer that's going to really make them sit up and take
notice. If they ask, "Sooooo, how's life." Say something
like, "Well, I'm thinking of joining the military and
becoming a sharpshooter." But you've got to say it deadpan.
Either they'll remember these types of responses or
they just won't care less.
Either way, you had some fun.
The third point is to remember that no matter what
you say these people will follow it with some generic,
fortune-cookie advice. One thing you can do that can
make these types of conversations fun is to try preempting
their advice. In fact, I've concluded that many people
ask these questions only so they can give their advice
and be known as one who gives advice. But if you beat
them to it they usually won't give up, but are then
put on the spot to try to make up some advice, which
can often times be quite hilarious.
Just as a side note, I think there are a lot of people
that give non-advice advice. The most classic one is,
"Well, what are ya gonna do?" That's not advice. That's
not even coherent. The truth is you'll never avoid these
conversations. I don't know, what are you gonna do?