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“That’s None of Your Business” – Setting Limits with Nosy People

sculpture-2209152_1920We have all met nosy people in our lives. Nosy people ask intrusive and sometimes rude questions, they overstep boundaries, and they tend to make others feel uncomfortable. What I find interesting is in situations where I am speaking with a nosy person, they don’t seem all that interested in my responses on the subject just in how the information I provide effects them.

For example, I have a nosy coworker; I will call her Dana. Dana has been training another coworker; I will call her Sandy. Sandy and I have an established relationship as I worked with her previously at another company. Since we have a relationship, Sandy feels comfortable coming to me if she is struggling with a particular issue, to get my guidance or perspective. Last week, Sandy was in my cubicle, and Dana walked by and jokingly asked if we were gossiping, to which we laughed and said “No” as we weren’t. Dana then left for her lunch break, upon returning she then proceeded to ask me what we were discussing and if it was about her. I have found myself in this situation with Dana many times, where she boldly asks about my conversations with other coworkers and even our boss.

When this incident occurred last week, I recognized that I was getting triggered by Dana’s intrusive question. I became mindful of my annoyance, and I felt the strong urge to bite my tongue to avoid saying anything that could escalate a conflict or that I would regret. Once Dana walked away I reflected on this, why did Dana’s question trigger such a strong emotional response from me? I felt irritated because I value privacy.  Dana assumed she’s entitled to this information and she seems to lack of awareness that it is none of her business what I discuss with my coworkers or boss. Once I acknowledged why I felt triggered, I was able to determine what I can do next time I am faced with a nosy intrusion – not just from Dana but anyone.

Don’t lash out. The question they are asking can be rude and inappropriate. It can be natural to respond in the same fashion. However, as I mentioned before, negatively responding could cause a conflict to escalate and make the situation worse.

Change Subjects or Postpone. If you are uncomfortable, try to shift the topic to something different. Ask them a question about something unrelated to take the spotlight off of you. Or, postpone responding altogether by saying, ” Would you mind if we discuss this later? I am in the middle of something that I need to finish.”

Be honest. Vocalize to the person what you are feeling and be truthful in how you respond. You could say, “Dana, I know you like to be included, and yet, I feel it is intrusive when my private conversations are being interrupted by your need to know all that is said. I assure you that I am not talking about you or gossiping.”

Have a “go to” response. Prepare a generic response for when you get asked a meddlesome question and keep it short. You could say, ” I feel uncomfortable talking about private matters.”

Respond to the question, with a question. I thought this might be the best course of action with Dana. Next time she asks about what I was discussing with a coworker, I can respond by asking, “Say more as to why this is important for you to know my conversations.” If she responds that She wanted to know “if we were talking about her?” I could ask, ” What makes you believe we were talking about you?” By doing this, it takes the attention off of you and puts it back on the asker. However, be mindful of your tone to make sure you don’t sound defensive, or angry.

Family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, complete strangers, all have the potential to ask nosy questions, knowing how to respond and handle those encounters constructively can make an uncomfortable situation more pleasant.


Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Guest Blogger

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How to Have Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High

Crucial Conversations exist when the stakes are high, opinions vary, and when emotions run strong and it is in these conversations where our greatest potential lies, we will discuss ways to handle these conversations in a healthy and productive way. Crucial Conversations creates a new language around communications and how they can best be handled. It approaches the issue in a very human way that stimulates our desire to relate to others while feeling good about us. You will read some real and concrete methods for getting control of yourself and staying focused through those challenging moments that pop up in everyone’s life.


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Creating Peace One Step At A Time with Kenneth Cloke

How important is conflict resolution to you? What are you doing to prevent, manage and resolve conflict in your daily life…your neighborhood, community and throughout the world? Conflict resolution and peace building are important tools for effective communication in order to assure clarity and acknowledge the interests of all individuals in a dispute. These tools allow us to examine ourselves and the language we use in conflict. The impact of language in conflict affects us, the people around us and the diverse world we live in. In a special episode, The Language of Conflict, Kenneth Cloke will join us to share his thoughts, experiences and expertise about how our language can easily escalate conflict or if thoughtfully used can deescalate and expand our understanding of each other.

Kenneth Cloke is a highly regarded conflict resolution professional and practitioner. His continuous work and personal journey through this field are important as he explores the ways in which to create a non-violent world. Cloke’s global work, teaching, research and overall knowledge has lead him to write numerous books on conflict resolution including his latest book The Dance of Opposites. This book focuses on a new vision for conflict resolution a “conflict revolution” that examines the language of conflict and how the brain responds to conflict. In addition he has authored and co-authored 11 books including Conflict Resolution-Mediating Evil, War, Injustice and Terrorism, The Crossroad of Conflict-A Journey Into the Heart of Dispute Resolution, and Resolving Conflicts at Work: Eight Strategies for Everyone on the Job. Cloke has served as mediator, arbitrator, attorney, coach, consultant and trainer and specializes in resolving community, grievance, workplace disputes, collective bargaining, organizational and school conflict, sexual harassment, discrimination lawsuits and public policy disputes.

Most importantly he has taken his teachings and shared them around the world in Universities, colleges and other training programs at schools like Antioch University, Occidental College, Pepperdine University School of Law and Harvard University School of Law. Teaching in subjects such as; law, mediation, conflict studies, urban studies, political studies and other social sciences that can help create change in the community you live in.

His dedication and passion for peaceful tools for resolving conflict has pulled him in a direction to do amazing things. He has worked internationally in over 20 countries including Austria, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, and China just to name a few. He is the President and Founder of Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBB). MBB is an organization dedicated to building a peace “Able” world, promoting skills of peace and mediation worldwide. They offer primary services to include:

  • Mediation (e.g., commercial, community, court, organizational, narrative, peer, evaluative, facilitative, transformative),
  • Mediation advocacy,
  • Dialogue,
  • Restorative justice (e.g., restorative circles; peace circles), and
  • Process design & facilitation.

MMB also has current projects in Colombia, Israel, Kenya, Liberia and other places to promote and use conflict resolution as an effective tool for peace.

Kenneth Cloke is the Director of Center for Dispute Resolution, which is a private center that offers a variety of services with a broad range of experience from multi-disciplinary professionals. The Center has been operating over 15 years. Kenneth Cloke is like many of us. He is dedicated to helping and creating change using effective tools for people all over the world. Remember any and every effort to resolve conflict non-violently makes a difference.

To learn more about Kenneth Cloke, listen to the upcoming show, January 14th at 7pm CT The Language of Conflict.

Written by

Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore, Dispute Resolution Program

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Naughty or Nice: How to Handle Holiday Neighbor Conflict

STOP the music!

STOP the music!

Conflicts with neighbors can be some of the worst disputes you can encounter. With the holidays approaching, family parties, festivities, holiday decorations, loud music and unruly guests who blocked driveways are some of the many things that fuel neighbor conflict. These types of irritations can turn into unexpected arguments and are the start of an unhealthy conflict if not discussed constructively with your neighbors.

For example, your neighbor has family and friends over for a pre-Christmas dinner. Your lights are out and your car is not in the driveway.  A few people from your neighbor’s house are parked along side the street and you are blocked from your driveway entrance. Your neighbor believes it’s okay because he/she thinks you’re out of town for the holidays. However, later that night you arrive home after a long day of last minute holiday shopping you are furious because you cannot get into your driveway and your neighbor has music playing loudly. Your initial reaction is to get out of your car and bang on your neighbors door to give them a piece of your mind. Take a breath to weigh your options.

Often times these disagreements come from unmet expectations and can cause you to react in a not-so neighborly way. In order to productively approach the neighbors, ask yourself some questions before you address the conflict with your neighbor.

  • What exactly is the situation you are upset about?
  • What does your neighbor do or say/not do or not say that irritates you?
  • What do you need? (e.g. quiet time, ability to get in and out of your home)
  • How will you say it and with what kind of tone or attitude?
  • Where will you have this discussion? At your place, your neighbor’s home or at a coffee shop? Wherever it is discussed, remain calm and explain how it is affecting you. Remember, people get defensive when you bring up a conflict or they feel they are being attacked.  

Consider these strategies for how to prevent conflict or manage it with your neighbors.

 1.)   Know your Homeowner’s Association (HOA) or apartment rules pertaining to large parties, outside decorations, and parking to prevent receiving a warning notice or having cars towed.

 2.)   Inform your neighbors of an upcoming holiday party.

3.)   Discuss your needs such as parking, loud music and partygoers.  This allows your neighbor and you to discuss potential areas of irritation and to come to an understanding and prevent potential conflict.

 4.)   Never assume that your neighbor knows what he/she is doing is bothersome to you.

 5.)   If you become triggered or irritated by a situation, remain calm and practice what and how you will approach your neighbor. Be clear about how the situation is impacting you and what you need.

 6.)   If a neighbor has been difficult in the past or communication is not effective consider other options such as mediation.

 To learn more about how to prevent and deal with nuisance neighbors, visit Conflict with Neighbors- Suggestion for Preventing Conflict and Neighbourhood Disputes or listen to our upcoming podcast Neighbor Nuisance Brings You Holiday Annoyance to prepare for the holidays.

Written by Tierra Henry, Graduate Student

University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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What Gives Conflict a Bad Name?

Differences and disagreements – we deal with them all the time.  They are conflicts, though we don’t bother to label them as such.  We listen and consider, we build solutions, we problem solve, and then we move on.   Other times, something snaps – and we suddenly find ourselves standing in the middle of an ugly mess, arguing perhaps, or getting out of the room as quickly as possible.  In this segment of the Texas Conflict Coach, we’ll consider what turns a simple disagreement into a conflict, and strategies to keep conflict at the lowest possible level.


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Handling Difficult Conversations With Family, Friends, And Co-workers- Part 1


zena Zumeta Join Alex Yaroslavsky and our special guest host Zena Zumeta of Zumeta Mediation.

Do you find yourself avoiding a difficult conversation with a relative, friend, or a co-worker? Are you afraid that the conversation will get heated and turn into an out-of-control fight? Let a conflict expert help. Alex Yaroslavsky is a mediator and a conflict resolution expert. He will teach you the three rules you need to follow to resolve even the most difficult conflict in your life.


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Developing Agility in the Face of Conflict

This show explores conflict as an “unfinished conversation.” Conflict can be defined as a complex situation of unmet needs and unexpressed emotions leading to predictable results.

Andrea Barrett, Executive Coach, addresses the need for spontaneity when dealing with conflict. She also highlights the book Difficult Conversations by speaking about the 3 conversations that take place during conflict.


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