Do you want kids? Why don’t you want kids?
It’s a line of questioning that would challenge anyone’s emotional equilibrium. And for good reason: it’s downright rude. “It is no one’s business when or how a couple makes personal choices. Asking these questions is rude and intrusive,” says Jay Remer, an etiquette expert based in New Brunswick.
But don’t let the nerve of some people—and the deeply private questions they ask—get under your skin. “Just because other people behave badly, we don’t need to stoop to their level. As my mentor Dorothea Johnson would say, Always take the high road; the low road is too crowded,” says Remer. “When answering impolite questions, a polite response is always appropriate.”
Fortunately there are a few options to consider. If you want to remain opaque on the topic—and it’s well within your right to do so—answer with something along the lines of , We haven’t made that decision yet, but when we do, we’ll be sure to let everyone know, says Remer. Alternatively, if you’re comfortable being frank, you could go the short and sweet route. In that case, a simple We’ve decided not to have children should suffice.
It’s not necessary to offer a reason for your decision. But if you’re pressed—and oh, lord, there is always someone who wants to press the issue—shut them down with the real truth: you’d prefer not to discuss it any further.
Regardless of how you choose to respond, keep a cool head and stick to the facts—even though it’s more than tempting to fire back sharply.
Though it’s difficult to answer calmly when emotions are engaged, you’re better served by rising to the challenge. For one, it avoids a prolonged confrontation on a topic you clearly don’t want to discuss publicly in the first place. Secondly, it reasserts your dignity. “Behaving appropriately reflects the respect we have for ourselves. We have limited control over many of life’s challenges, but guarding our self-respect is important and an area we can call our own.”
Additionally, it’s wise to consider the very likely fact that the offender spoke without thinking. “For most of the people who ask such questions, they have no clue that they are crossing a line.” Your task is to calmly and coolly redraw that line.