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20-40-60 Etiquette: Should I talk to strangers?
BY CALLIE GORDON, LILLIE-BETH BRINKMAN, HELEN FORD WALLACE | Published: May 18, 2012 | Modified: May 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm
QUESTION: I work for a local television station and sometimes appear on camera. At times, people elsewhere recognize me and always have a comment, such as “I saw you on TV” or “you are that person who talked about the fire last night.” It is now a problem and takes all my time to stop and talk to strangers. What is my response to random people who stop me? Should I ignore them or say, “Thanks for watching; I don't have time to talk about it now?”
CALLIE'S ANSWER: Price of being on TV, I'm afraid. I would say something along the lines of, “Yes, that's me! Thanks for watching.” or “Keep watching.”
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Like it or not, you are now in the public eye and that's going to happen. And keep in mind that any reaction you have to a person who recognizes you will reflect on your employer, good or bad. If you ignore the comments, people will associate their negative feelings with the TV station; if you are positive, good feelings are linked to your employer.
Yes, people impose on “celebrities,” even lesser ones (by their own admission) who only occasionally appear on TV. If fans are rude or pushy, I don't think you can fight their imposition on your time with rudeness in return. From your question, it sounds like the people have good intentions and just want to acknowledge they saw you on TV. Take it as a compliment and be as gracious as possible. Also, ask your co-workers who are on TV more frequently for ideas about how they balance the enthusiastic recognition from others with their own need for privacy.
HELEN'S ANSWER: It is always fun to recognize a television personality or someone with “star” power out in the public, and we all want to stop and have a chat with them. We think we know them well.
It is no wonder that when movie star Julia Roberts goes to the local grocery store in Taos, N.M., she covers her hair with a big scarf and wears large sunglasses and probably hopes that no one will recognize her. We have seen her there and have resisted the opportunity to try to talk to her.
But, locally, maybe you can give your fans a wave and a smile and a quick answer if you have time. They are just glad to see you. Enjoy your fame!
GUEST'S ANSWER: Yvette Walker, Director of Presentation and Custom Publishing for The Oklahoman and faculty member who holds the E.K. Gaylord Ethics Chair at the University of Central Oklahoma: Being recognized is part of your job and your life now, and to ignore people would be just rude. In fact, ignoring people can affect your livelihood. Would you want to watch and support someone who was rude to you?
You say that you only sometimes appear on camera, and that's different from being on TV every night, where you might get used to the celebrity. When you are out, you might take some tips from actors: Wear casual clothing, wear a hat, visor or sunglasses and try to avoid venturing into crowds.
Just remember that people don't mean to be insensitive to your need of privacy, so you shouldn't be insensitive to their need to say hello. Just smile, and say, “thank you.”