Sometimes, we may not realize that what we’re asking is not okay because we think that they’re neutral questions. We may also just want to connect with people, but then, unfortunately, ask awkward questions. Even worse, if we could’ve been just trying to be kind and helpful but hurt someone in the process. There are some popular questions that we can avoid asking because they may cause more harm than good.
Bright Side takes a look at how some common and seemingly safe questions can actually hurt other people’s feelings.
1. “Why are you still…?”
Asking someone why they are still single may seem like a compliment, especially after saying that they’re nice or good-looking, but it can still make them feel terrible about themselves. The question raises some negative generalizations about being single and can make them start to question what’s wrong with them. In fact, any, “Why are you still…?” questions can sound like you’re asking them to explain themselves for being stuck at the same phase in their lives.
2. “Why do you look so tired?”
You might just be concerned about their well-being, but it may come off as if you’re telling them that they look bad. Unless you’re particularly close to them, it’s better to avoid asking this question as they may appear tired because of a problem they don’t want to discuss or maybe that’s just the way they always look. Otherwise, they might feel pressured to look a certain way just to be accepted.
3. “What do you do?”
It may seem like a normal icebreaker, but asking, “What do you do?” can make someone uncomfortable when talking to you. It can feel opportunistic, as if you’re just chatting with them for networking. And if they’re currently in a difficult place, where they’re lacking direction in their career, it definitely won’t be a topic they want to talk about. Maybe you can try asking, “What excites you?” instead, when you’re trying to get to know someone you just met.
4. “How old are you?”
Unless you’re in a culture where you need to find out each other’s age to determine how to speak to one another, there shouldn’t be any need to ask for someone’s age in a social setting. Perhaps it’s because once you’ve reached adulthood, age is no longer just a number. It becomes a measure of how far you’ve come and what you should have done by then. So it could feel like you’re judging someone just by asking this basic question.
5. “Which college did you go to?”
This question and “What did you major in for your degree?” assume that the person you’re talking to has a college education. It could make the person feel like they don’t belong if they weren’t able to go to college for whatever reason. If they did go, they might not even want to talk about it if they feel like they didn’t go to a particularly good school or major in a praiseworthy degree.
6. “Do you work out?”
If the person you’re asking this to does not usually work out, they might find it insulting, as if you’re making fun of them. If they do, they might feel like you’re judging them for working out too much. Even if you mean to compliment them for their hard work, they might feel like you’re only valuing them for their body.
7. “Where are you from?”
While you may just be genuinely interested to know someone’s background, it can feel like discrimination against someone because you think that they don’t look like they belong in their own country. It may make them question their own identity and make you seem like you’re trying to stereotype them.
8. “Why don’t you get out more?”
You have good intentions when asking this question because you want to encourage someone to try new things. But it can be offensive because it sounds as if you’re suggesting that they need more exposure or that they’re not interesting. It may also be insensitive if they actually can’t afford to spend money going out, even if they want to.
9. “Have you lost weight?”
If you mean it as a compliment, it may make the person you’re talking to feel like you’ll judge them again if they were to gain back the weight. Even if it is just an observation, it might make the person feel uncomfortable, especially if they lost weight because they were going through something terrible that they’d rather not discuss.
10. “What happened?”
Usually, this is truly just an innocent question to ask when you’re curious. But if something tragic happened to someone, it’s a little insensitive to ask them about it. They might feel traumatized just thinking about it, and it can be draining to have to repeat the tragedy to everyone else. It’s probably better to just tell them you’re sorry that it happened and let them tell you if and when they’re ready to talk about it.
Have you ever asked anything you thought was harmless but it hurt someone? What other questions can you add to this list?