70

This is going to be amazingly hard to pull off, without making people frown a little. You rightfully remark that outright declining to answer the question will be seen as strange: since I'm reacting as if I were asked a deeply personal question while, in their eyes, they were just making conversation. 'Where are you from' is a form of small talk. ...


65

I had a colleague (she then became a friend) who had a tattoo with a personal meaning... and that's precisely what she told people. Yep, it's a semicolon. What? Why? Well, I like the symbol aesthetically, and it has a personal meaning to me. (My friend later privately explained that it was some kind of message to her deceased father, so I guess ...


59

Some people just want to know this trivia, no matter how irrelevant it is for them afterwards. Maybe you'll say a country they've visited and they will follow-up with "I loved city X" or "monument Z" and others just want to know that "George T is Y-ian" Since you've moved in the last decade, I'm assuming you feel pretty comfortable where you live now, so ...


40

I live in Spain, and have done for the past ten years. Constantly, when talking to people I haven't met before, I get asked where I'm from. It's because of my accent - I've been here long enough that my Spanish accent isn't bad, but that also makes it harder to place. People aren't sure whether I'm French, English, maybe Belgian, could even be Canadian, who ...


30

That's a pretty good reason to get a tattoo, but like any tattoo you don't really have to explain it to everyone. Most of my tattoos are equally meaningful to me, but I rarely give people the full context. Sometimes it works to just tell people what the symbol is: It's just a semicolon. If that's not enough, you can go slightly deeper without letting ...


23

Welcome to adulthood, the wonderful magical age when it becomes completely appropriate to tell your parents: No. This seems like one of those occasions where simply saying "no" is completely reasonable. Giving out your boss's contact information so that your parent can check up on you is not only odd, it's plainly unprofessional and I'm sure that your ...


23

For the most part, I do that with work colleagues too. I prefer to maintain a separation between my professional and personal life. What tends to help keep things professional, and maintain a healthy amount of comradarie is making an effort to engage in non-personal conversations. Like discussing work related matters, clients, new policies, etc. This helps ...


21

Since you seem to be asked this question frequently in a common situation, I would recommend coming up with one, "good," answer. Something creative and in-line with your personality (funny, sarcastic, dry, etc., as fits you) will give you good results much of the time. Many of the people who ask you this are doing so in an effort to make small talk. Small ...


20

I got teased a lot about my accent as a kid, so perhaps I'm a bit sensitive to what, for many people, is intended as a casual conversation starter. A tactic that I've used in the past when small talk crossed boundaries is to acknowledge the question and use it as a starting point to slide the conversation in a different direction. For example, you might ...


17

You could answer it without specifically relating it to yourself or your own experiences. “It’s a symbol to raise awareness about depression.” Or “It’s a symbol used to show support for people suffering from depression or taking their own lives.” That doesn’t specifically say anything about you but answers the (I’m sure innocent) question from the other ...


16

Signs of shame Not showing 'shame' is easier if you first understand how shame, and feeling ashamed, is usually communicated. This image shows a typical (but maybe somewhat exaggerated for educational purposes) example of body language usually associated with shame. Wikipedia says about the identification of shame: Nineteenth-century scientist Charles ...


14

There are some really good answers here, and I wanted to add my thoughts which are along a similar vein. It sounds to me like you want to be open about it, but to start off the conversation on a light note, trying to keep it from being awkward while still allowing the conversation to progress naturally. I would respond to the question with something along ...


14

The script used by Benatar for the interview worked because this was a professional meeting, and Benatar was setting the parameters of that interview. Using such a script with people you're meeting to enjoy their company does seem cold and distant. Be it his job, or his picture being taken, or other personal questions he prefers not to answer, he can do ...


13

I think what you want is to see whether this person is trustworthy and safe to be around. I question the assumption that a criminal background check will tell you that, for a few reasons: An official background check will only potentially tell you about a few specific kinds of negative behavior, leaving out lots of things that could actually be important to ...


13

This is a tough one. There are no guarantees Eve will honor your request. Usually, people who spread information to others, whether you consider it gossiping or not don't realize it's a big deal and if this is how they are they will keep doing it. Approach Eve and tell her what her friend Annie mentioned/asked about Adam. Ask her calmly to not share your ...


11

I think you chose a tattoo, that has a deeper meaning (which is not obvious at first glance) -> that's, of course, raising interest or questions in others, so don't be mad at them. In my opinion, your answer depends on the purpose of the tattoo: to make a statement to others (if it's exposed and easily visible, it can be seen by others as a statement) or ...


11

You can always evade the question; I say "oh, software stuff." Because there are people about who would react strongly if I say "ballistic software for military rockets." I do this every time non-colleagues ask me what I do. I have a few in-laws who are extremely political and I can imagine the kerfuffle if they knew... You gave no details about the job you ...


10

You have transformed Jim from "someone in my class I've known for 6 months and don't know much about" into "that guy whose brother died." It seems like he might be the first person you've ever met who has lost a relative. You have so many questions! You're curious! That's cool. But when you decide that your curiosity is entitled to answers, you cross the ...


9

I think TMI usually relates to either the sharer's lack of a social filter or their overestimation of affinity. Basically they will tend to blurt things out to just about anyone or they consider you to be a very close friend that they can talk to about such matters. I think that's why the term "TMI" was created. It gives people a short gentle way of saying ...


9

Edit: This is from experience of being a somewhat private person and living in a place where “what do you do?” is the common opener. If the other is an extrovert I just get them talking about themselves. If a fellow introvert, they usually won’t “fight” my direction of the topic. Answer to “What could hubby have done differently?” If the script is ...


8

I've had coworkers like that. I'm not a parent and am not "into" kids; apparently I was elsewhere when they were handing out the gene that helps fuel the "aw, cute!" reaction to kids. But you still want to maintain a positive working relationship; even if you're not friends, you have to spend a lot of time with this person and in your shared environment. ...


8

I'll be honest, this will be bad for your professional career. Knowing nothing about you, your coworkers have no reason to see you as a real person. I'll give you a real example. I used to be an IT department manager, and had two employees that were under performing. I got the OK from the higher ups to let one go, and hire a new guy. Guy X was pretty lazy....


8

"Originally" is a Russian doll (no pun intended). When people ask this, there are many ways to answer, based on the time dial--I often think to myself, "How far back do you want to go?". Proactively choosing the timeframe you will use in your answer presents a strong opportunity to deflect discomfort, while being truthful and interesting, perhaps even ...


7

Think of topics of conversation as different layers. The top layer is small talk: superficial stuff like the weather or sports. As you go deeper, it gets more and more personal. You have to dig through the first layers before you get to the very personal stuff - people typically react poorly if you try to skip straight to "So, how's your relationship with ...


6

I think the general idea of your letter is perfectly fine, though I would modify it slightly to be a little more formal and add some more info. I recommend more formal, because letters in general tend to be more formally written, and you are addressing a stranger who is from an older generation. I also recommend mentioning the reason you are contacting them ...


5

I do not see a reason not to say why, but you don't have to go into personal details up front. I would suggest: Unfortunately I have bad days once in a while, and this is to remind me that they are followed by good days too. This gives the basic reason, and allows you to go into more detail if asked. Stigmatism is a real problem when mentally ill, ...


5

It is totally not weird to want to do a background check on somebody you're going to be spending a lot of time with. To me, it is similar to hunting for a roommate. You want to make sure you don't get robbed and left in no man's land while you sleep. Just be upfront with them. Tell them you're going to have a company perform a background check on them if ...


5

The path of least resistance is "from TOWN_NAME" where TOWN_NAME is either the town you are in, a nearby major city or the place that you consider your current residence. You will have to train yourself a little bit to say it naturally, without an obvious pause, but after you get the hang of it the majority of people will accept it. There are all sorts of ...


5

Although I understand the desire to avoid having to confront uncomfortable questions in the moment, that kind of formal forewarning is very likely to backfire. It immediately raises questions like "what is he hiding?" that might actually encourage more questioning. It also makes the sender seem quite eccentric, which is rather charming when you're a ...


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