I love the holidays. I love gathering with people to celebrate, and I realize the vast majority of the population feels the same way. So that commonality makes us friends, right? And friends tell one another the hard things, the ones not just anyone will verbalize, right? Ok, so here it goes: Lean in close so I can put my hands on your shoulders and whisper in your ear. Don’t ask that awkward question. No, seriously, don’t.
I have a theory. With the increase in social media and the perception that people are sharing everything, it’s easy to assume the details of someone’s life are your business. But can I be super honest and just say what needs to be said? That thing you want to ask about is seriously none of your business. It wasn’t any of your business yesterday, and it’s not any more your business just because you’re making merry at a work party, a friend party, a family party, or even a girls’ night out.
Last year I was at a Christmas party with my husband, my son, and a good friend of ours. The friend’s wife wasn’t able to attend, and I considered it a mercy when the husband was approached by an acquaintance. These friends of ours had been married a little over a year, and we all know that’s when people feel free to ask about babies. So someone walks up to our group and asks if these two have thought about kids … wink, wink … nudge, nudge. So our friend politely mentions that his wife is seventeen weeks along, and they’re excited about having a baby. GOOD! The culprit has attained the desired info. There is a pregnancy, and all is right with the world! What this person didn’t know is that my dear friends had lost their first baby earlier in the year, and that precious child would have been born in roughly a month. They were expecting, but they were also grieving.
When to ask a personal question:
If someone has pulled you aside to initiate the sharing of said information.
When to avoid asking a personal question:
All the other times.
I could go on and on, but it’s a busy time of year, and you probably don’t want paragraphs on this subject. Let’s do bullets instead.
- Do not ask when someone is going to have children. This is a subject people may not wish to discuss for a number of reasons, none of which are any of your business. The fact that baby-making involves sex should stop you in your tracks. Do not ask people about parts of their life that involve sex.
- Do not ask if someone is going to have more children. See point above.
- Do not ask details about someone’s adoption. Are there exceptions? Absolutely. Safe question: How is your adoption fundraiser going? I’d like to donate! Unsafe question: So what’s your adopted son or daughter’s story? Other unsafe questions: Pretty much all of them.
- Do not ask if someone is dating, when he or she will get married, or anything else regarding relationships. If someone wants you in the loop, you’ll be invited in. If you’re not invited, accept the fact that it. is. none. of. your. business.
There are plenty of other subjects to avoid, but I find those around reproduction, adoption, dating, and marriage to pop up way too often. We moms, the ones who should understand how sensitive these matters can be, seem like the most likely to zip our lips, right? Wrong! We’re the worst offenders, and it needs to stop. Join me in making it stop.
What’s the big deal? Why does this warrant a blog post? Is any harm really done when awkward questions are asked? Well, those are loaded questions, but here’s what I’ll say: If you ask an awkward question, you get to move on easily. But the person you haven’t seen in a year who just got asked if she’s in a relationship? The lovely couple you just said looked really good holding that new niece or nephew with the knowing chuckle thrown in for good measure? Yep, these people may leave the gathering fighting tears. You have no idea what is happening behind the scenes, but what you do know, what you really, really know, even if you have trouble accepting it, is that they owe you nothing. No explanation, no insider information, nothing.
Sometimes it’s hard to accept that we need to keep our mouths shut. The truth can hurt, but those awkward questions you don’t need to ask can hurt much more.