I have my own business and while I don't have to take on every client who comes my way, I always want to be polite because I don't want to get bad business reviews or have them say bad things about my company.
I will be having surgery this coming week. I talked with a new potential client a few weeks ago and I wanted to warn him that I would be out of the office and away from my computer and phone for a few weeks. My surgery is pretty big involving a stay at the hospital and many days on pain medication. I could have just told him "I will be out of the office for several weeks" but I didn't want to give him the impression that I was vacationing on a beach instead of doing the work. And I am not sure when I'll be able to return to work because it depends upon how quickly I heal. So I was honest about having surgery.
When we were on the phone, I had a small insight into his boundary-stomping behavior because he asked how old I was. It's not relevant to my work. I was so caught off guard that I answered honestly because the only other answer I could think of was "That's none of your business."
We met in person to go over some questions. I rolled up my sleeves to start taking notes and he saw my arm where I have some eczema because I had bandaids there to cover a small burn that I'd gotten taking a hot cookie sheet out of the oven a month ago. The adhesive from bandaids sometimes gives me a rash. The injury area looked worse than it was because of this. He said in shock "Wow, what happened to your arm?" I told him. He kept asking more about the hot oven and the cookie sheet. Then, he quickly segued into asking me what happened to my wrist on the other arm. I have a 1 1/2 inch scar there because I had surgery on it two months ago. I told him I had surgery on that, and I tried to get back to the topic at hand. My business is in engineering/IT and my scars or injuries have absolutely no bearing upon how well I work or anything related to that. He then started asking more questions about my wrist surgery. My wrist surgery was not a traumatic event and I'm a very open person so I don't mind talking about it, but I really wanted to stay on schedule and get back to work. Plus, what if my scars had been caused by something more traumatic in my life? Like memories I'd rather not think of. It was out of line for him to be asking those questions. I kept bean dipping.
At another point, he asked about my upcoming surgery. I said "I'm sure you don't want to know the details." Beandip. He asked again immediately. I couldn't think of anything else polite to say so I thought if I told him some of the uncomfortable truth, he'd stop. I find that sometimes people who ask out of line questions get squicked out by the truth and then say "That was Too Much Information. I didn't want to know that!" Then, they shouldn't ask. I replied "my injuries are thanks to a combination of bad genes and two pregnancies." Beandip. And he wanted to know more. I was so very tempted at this point to say "Believe me. You don't want to hear all about my <insert some accurate terms for female anatomy>, nor does your wife want to know you've learned details about another woman's <insert term for female anatomy>." But I just said "Believe me. You don't want to know" and beandipped yet again.
After this meeting, I was highly annoyed. What things could I have done to handle this differently? I have three other clients that I told "I'm having surgery in mid-March and will be out of the office until early April." The two polite ones who I have always liked have respected that. One other client who is generally pretty entitled, self-absorbed and clueless at least had the class to say "I don't want to be nosy. What kind of surgery are you having?" But that exchange was via email so I just didn't answer her question when I answered the rest of the questions related to my engineering work for her."
How does one stay polite to a client, all the while answering every personal question like "Not your business... beandip" or "Let's stay on topic... beandip." I have no problem chit-chatting with clients about cars or sports or the weather. And I'm not a super secretive person. I just don't know how to handle the blatantly and repeatedly rude.
ETA the most obnoxious point of the whole meeting. He said he wanted to hire my company. We were wrapping up and then he brought up a highly controversial subject. I'm not sure if I can post even the term here. Let's just say it's a very controversial subject. And he started talking about that and stating his viewpoint and opinion as if it were fact. I believe the exact opposite. I politely refuted his false claims, fact by fact. But who even brings up a topic like politics or religion when discussing computer software work?! It was totally irrelevant!