Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

Recently, I was to have an operation of a personal nature. I shared the facts with my family and a few trusted friends, but I didn’t want to announce them publicly! I was amazed by the nosiness of some acquaintances who apparently felt they were entitled to sharing all. It was awkward and I’d like to know how to best handle such rudeness.

Recovering, White Stone

Curiosity. We know what it did to the cat, dear Recovering. It can cause great problems for us also.

There may be perfectly good intentions involved when we want to know details of a situation from another. For instance we often want to help with babysitting or transportation, or bringing in dinner.

However, I advise we apply the do-I-really-have-a-need-to-know rule and then proceed without probing. If the person we are concerned about is a casual acquaintance, it is appropriate to let them know you hope all will be well and that you will keep them in your thoughts and, if you are sincere, in your prayers. If your relationship is a closer friendship, it is quite acceptable to say you are concerned and want to offer help that might make the time easier, including an ear to listen.

However, if the person who is going through the situation does not then offer details, you can understand she wants them to remain private.

When we are accosted by questions that we do not want to answer, we can thank the inquisitor for caring but say, “I’d rather not talk about that. I hope you understand.” All but the severely socially challenged will understand and respect your privacy.

We are told the curious cat was brought back to life by having his curiosity satisfied, but realistically, if we try to satisfy our own curiosity at the expense of someone else’s comfort, we are being inhumane. 

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at