How to handle (and sometimes even ask) the nosiest questions:
Nosy question: How much do you weigh?
How to respond: "Enough" or "I don't know -- whenever I step on the scale, it says, 'Perfect,'" suggests Claudia Michelle Wallace, a comedian with Chicago's Second City. Or try responding in a cleverly vague way: "The British would say I weigh nine stone" or "One and a half Mary Kate Olsens."
How to ask: Don't. The only people who have a legitimate reason for asking this question are doctors, your personal trainer, and the amusement-park carny who runs the Guess Your Weight game (but even he shouldn't ask, since he's supposed to be guessing).
Nosy question: How old are you?
How to respond: "I'm old enough to know better." You can also claim a ridiculous age, or say, "I'm aging rapidly just thinking about it," says Amy Dickinson, author of the Chicago Tribune advice column Ask Amy. "Or try Dustin Hoffman's response in Tootsie," says Dickinson. "'Age means nothing to me -- I'm a character actress!'"
How to ask: Flattery will get you everywhere: "You're so accomplished for your age! What are you -- 25? You look like it." Or casually mention your last high school reunion, or where you were when some major historical event occurred. The person may chime in with a story that will help you do the math.
Nosy question: What's your salary?
How to respond: Be deliberately vague. You can say, "I do OK" or "I'd like to make more." If the person presses on, let your parents take the fall: Say, "My mother told me to never discuss money," and stop there. "Don't explain your response -- simply change the subject," says Dickinson.
How to ask: If you're trying to find out how much a particular job or industry pays, phrase it in this manner: "What could I expect to make as an account executive?"
Nosy question: What did you do on your date last night?
How to respond: "The usual -- dinner, dancing, hot-air-balloon ride." Most of the time, you don't have to answer someone's nosy question directly. You can creatively answer around it. The person asking is probably trying to find out whether you had a good time. So tell him if you did (or didn't) and leave it at that.
How to ask: Don't ask specifics. (Do you need to know where they had dinner, how long the date lasted, etc.?) Simply ask if they had fun. They'll cough up details if they want to.
Nosy question: How much is your rent/mortgage?
How to respond: "Rents in this building go for..." Or say, "I have a great Realtor you should try." This gives your friend information without compromising your privacy. Asking about someone's mortgage is more invasive. Simply say, "That's between me and my bank" or "My credo is to not discuss anything about money."
How to ask: Wait for the right moment, such as a dinner with a group of friends who are all in the throes of house hunting. Still, don't ask for specifics. Instead, make it general: "How much do houses go for around this neighborhood?"" If your friends are comfortable talking about it, they may offer up their price, but don't expect it.
Nosy question: How much did you pay for those shoes?
How to respond: Simply say, "I don't remember -- I have no idea," "They weren't much," or "They were a treat for myself." Most of the time, this is a harmless, innocent question -- the person is admiring your shoes and thinking about them for herself, not probing into how much importance you place on material objects or how much money you have.
How to ask: Instead of asking the price, ask where she got the shoes or what the brand is, then go find out how much they cost.
Nosy question: What Was Your Doctor's Appointment For?
How to respond: "You don't want to know" (said with a smile) or "I'm just fine -- thanks for asking." You don't have to go into any detail. A vague answer will satisfy most people. They will understand you don't want to answer and back away.
How to ask: Don't ask specifics -- just express your concern. "Is everything OK? Can I help you with anything?" That shows you care without invading privacy.
Nosy question: Why are you all dressed up? Did you have a job interview?
How to respond: "I just wanted to dress up" or "Isn't every day a job interview?" This is often just a comment, not a real question, "so it doesn't necessarily require a response," says Marjorie Brody, an executive coach and the author of "Professional Impressions.
How to ask: Try the "butter up" method: "What a gorgeous outfit! What's the occasion?" You've tossed out the bait. If she wants to pick it up, she will. Otherwise, let it slide.
Nosy question: Why did you call in sick?
How to respond: "I wasn't feeling well." Then stop right there. No one needs to know about your gastrointestinal distress.
How to ask: Make sure it's clear you're asking because you are genuinely concerned about the person, not because you're the work-attendance police. Deliver this question lightly and with concern, not in an accusatory manner.
Nosy question: What was that you were talking about?
How to respond: "The price of tea in China." "Nothing exciting enough to share." This question is often used as an entrance into a conversation. If the question comes from someone who overheard a phone conversation, apologize for talking so loud.
How to ask: It's all about the context. If you walk by a group of friends and they're laughing, you may be able to break in and say, "Did I miss something fun?" But don't presume that your need to know is greater than their need to continue the conversation.