It’s not always easy to tell when you’re being rude. Some behaviors — like chewing with your mouth open, belching at the table or texting endlessly while in the presence of other people — are obviously not OK. But other behaviors, like putting your used napkin on the table in the middle of a meal or gossiping, are less overtly rude, as is asking certain questions.
You may think you’re just being friendly when you ask someone what their ethnicity is, and you may genuinely want to know when your children are going to have children of their own! And though your intentions may be good with these inquiries and others, asking certain things is actually asking for a little too much information.
Asking about religion, money or politics is known to be rude, but it’s also rude to ask about relationship status, weight and sexuality. And once you know what questions are rude, you may know how to conduct a friendly, polite conversation. But before you can become a great conversationalist, you need to know the 21 questions that could be very rude.
Generally, asking someone about their relationship status is pretty rude. You may have the best intentions on asking about that ex or inquiring about whether or not someone has tried Tinder/OK Cupid/joining a church group to meet someone new, but it is only going to make the single person uncomfortable. If there’s someone new and exciting in a person’s life, chances are they’re going to share that information willingly.
And what about those folks who do have someone special in their life? Asking a couple when they’re going to get engaged or married may bring up an unanswered question in their relationship. Plus, in these modern times, marriage may not be in the cards for every single couple. And that’s OK!
You may be excited to become a grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt or uncle, but asking a married couple when they’re going to have a baby is awkward. Not all couples can have children, and asking when they’re going to have kids can actually be really hurtful. If a couple is trying to have a baby and wants to share that news, they will tell you. Just be patient!
AWKWARD. Asking someone straight up if they’re pregnant is a big no-no. They may not be drinking and their tummy may be a bit fuller, but honestly, it could just be bloat. Once again, if someone is expecting, they will let you know on their own schedule. Keep your guesses and thoughts to yourself.
So that person was pregnant and maybe they just had their fifth or sixth kid. Asking someone if they’re unexpectedly pregnant or implying that they’ve been “busy” is just uncomfortable for all involved. Some people just want big families! And that’s their own choice, just like all decisions regarding family planning.
Kids develop at their own pace, and that’s fine! Your child may be a prodigy who was walking at nine months, but that’s not how every baby is. Asking a parent why their kid isn’t walking, talking, potty trained or reaching any other milestones yet is rude. You never know the reason, and if something serious is going on, trust that the parents are looking into it.
Yes, people really will ask someone this. Just because a person dresses a certain way, talks a certain way or hangs out at a certain dive bar, that means nothing about their sexuality. Implying someone is gay, straight or anywhere along the spectrum is flat-out rude. As with family planning and relationships, it’s usually best to let someone tell you about their love life on their own terms.
If someone shows up to a meeting, party or engagement, chances are they were either invited or felt the need to be there. Asking someone why they had the gall to show up to a birthday party or particular office gathering will make them feel left out and awkward. If they’re not meant to be there, they’ll leave.
You can’t always tell someone’s ethnicity just by looking at them. But asking someone “What are you?” with that tone will make them feel lesser-than. If someone is proud of their heritage, they’ll show that through their actions and anecdotes. Guessing someone’s race or straight-up asking may seem innocent enough, but it ends up making you look ignorant.
If someone tells you that their family is from North Carolina, you better bet they’re from North Carolina! Asking someone where they’re really from implies they’re different than you and can’t possibly be from the same state or country. You can never know who’s an immigrant, who’s a first-generation American or whose family has been here for hundreds of years just by their looks.
You may genuinely be curious how old someone is! Some people just do not look or act their age at all. But unless you’re a bouncer at one of the best bars in America, don’t ask someone when they graduated high school. After a certain point in life, age matters less than attitude and outlook anyway.
Just look at this question! It sounds so rude even when it’s just written down. But it’s asked a surprising amount, especially to people with physical differences like birthmarks or a limp. Keep your thoughts about how someone else presents themselves to your own self.
We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but gossiping is one of the rudest habits that you can have. Talking behind someone’s back, especially about something sensitive like weight or physical appearance, is never OK.
This may seem like it’s a compliment, but weight is almost always a sensitive topic of conversation. And not all weight loss is good! It could be a symptom of a serious illness. If someone wants to share their weight loss journey, they will share it with you. But if they want to keep that to themselves, let them.
Once again, asking someone why they’re so thin or if they have always been so skinny may seem like it’s nice, especially in a society that celebrates smaller bodies. However, some thin people are uncomfortable in their bodies, and implying that they’re too small or need to eat a sandwich will just make them feel even worse.
A lot of rude questions will feel like compliments, but asking someone about their physical appearance in any way is rude. Asking someone how they got to be so beautiful is just baffling and says more about you than it does about them. Similarly, asking people about their weight loss secrets, whether they’ve gotten plastic surgery or how they can look so perky early in the morning is a big no-no.
Not everyone follows the same career path. And there’s no such thing as a “real job” versus a “fake job.” Being a musician or a bartender or a writer or any other so-called alternative job is just as valid as being a stockbroker or an engineer. Implying less than that is just demeaning.
Let a person have their hobbies, won’t you?! Some people like to blow off steam with conventional activities like jogging or reading, and others like to do it in other equally fun ways like playing music, painting or following other passions. Let them live their own lives and you can live yours, ideally without judgment.
Well, they were… before you decided to be all judgmental. Sure, it may be a neon green sweater or a little black dress that may be a bit too little, but that’s someone else’s choice, not yours.
Every child (or, let’s be honest, adult) who has moved away from their family has heard this one. Most people don’t like living far away from their loved ones and do it for career reasons or other personal needs or wants. Asking someone when they’ll move back closer to their family is little more than a guilt trip, even if you’re asking it in earnest. And if you wondered whether or not this inquiry was rude, you probably need these other modern etiquette questions answered.
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